Advanced explosives training underway in southern Indiana this week

NORTH VERNON, Ind. – Law enforcement agencies from across Indiana and beyond are taking part this week in some of the most advanced and realistic explosives training in the world.

The Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, in North Vernon, is hosting the Ravens Challenge Interoperability Exercise, a national training event to prepare and counter the threat of improvised explosive devices. The weeklong series of exercises is designed to allow local, state and federal agencies to work side-by-side with members of different branches of the U.S. military.

“We learn techniques from the military, the military learns techniques from us,” said Sgt. Frederick Lantzer, a member of IMPD’s bomb squad. “This is some of the best training I’ve ever gone to because it’s actual hands on training.”

“I wish every department’s bomb squad in the country could go through this,” Lantzer said.

The Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is gaining notoriety as a premier location for the type of training happening this week. The sprawling compound allows instructors to oversee many different scenarios involving the threat of explosive devices.

“We get to use some equipment here we don’t normally get to use because of the training facility that’s here,” said Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Black. “We get to do a lot of live shots. It’s just a very unique training opportunity for us.”

Deputy Black was in the process of putting on a protective bomb suit that weighs roughly 70 pounds. Built-in fans help the suit stay cool on hot days, but he said he was still feeling the heat as he prepared to start a training exercise. But he also said the ballistic protection the suit offers is worth the sweat.

“It’s one of the few chances we get to work a lot closely with the military, learn what they do and how they do it,” Black said. “It’s a chance for them to see on the public safety side how we do what we do.”

Exercises performed Wednesday included simulating a bomb flown by drone right next to Churchill Downs on the day of the Kentucky Derby. Another scenario required bomb squad members to enter a building to plant a small charge of C-4 explosive on a safe containing vital intelligence that would lead them to other hidden bombs. Another exercise simulated a bomb planted on an airliner while passengers were still on board.

“The different scenarios, some of this stuff we haven’t encountered,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. Chris Hager. “It’s more learning.”

Hager said he appreciates the opportunity to work with members of the U.S. Navy.

“So we learn how they function, they learn how we function,” Hager said. “So if we ever have to come together as a team, we know what they have, what they’re capable of. And they know what we have.”

The Ravens Challenge program also included military members from several different countries. They included Belgium, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, and Sweden.

The program at Muscatatuck will continue through the rest of the week.

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