Cartagena, Spain –
Expeditionary Exploitation Unit One (EXU-1) is renowned in U.S. military circles as being the preeminent authority for investigating and recovering post-blast forensics. U.S. allies now recognize this reputation as well, following their July NATO visit in Cartagena, Spain where they served as guest speakers and working group members for the first NATO Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) Center of Excellence (COE) Technical Exploitation in Underwater Environments event.
“NATO reached out to the FBI to help build an underwater post-blast investigation curriculum for Swedish EOD operators in 2020,” said EODCS Christopher Courtney, EXU-1’s Training Leading Chief Petty Officer. “Due to the FBI not being able to provide the material as mandated by the Foreign Disclosure Office, EXU-1 was asked to provide curriculum information in their stead.”
After receiving positive feedback from the operators, NATO asked EXU-1 to present, in-person, at the C-IED COE Working Group in Spain.” Although EXU-1 and the FBI have taught this curriculum in the past, the groups have only done smaller engagements with partner nations around the globe. The NATO workshop consisted of a plenary session discussing high-level information with senior officials and a technical session with divers and subject matter experts at Naval Base Cartagena.
Courtney explained that NATO’s involvement in exploiting explosive events in a maritime environment is extremely limited and they are looking to develop their capability to respond to these incidents. With a recent surge in maritime incidents in areas like the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, it is vital they share their post-blast forensic expertise and knowledge with other allied EOD operators.
“Right now, EXU-1 and the FBI are the only ones doing this type of forensic investigation in this environment, so imparting that knowledge to others is imperative,” he said. “Due to the land based fights, other countries have had extensive knowledge in those investigations, but are not experienced in at-sea post-blast forensics. That’s why they called us. Giving them the knowledge to be able to respond to these sorts of scenarios is beneficial to everyone since we cannot be everywhere at once”
While deployed, EXU-1 can collect and process evidence of value through various methods. These efforts often lead to the identification and exploitation of hostile networks responsible for the production and use of those materials, as well as attribute state sponsors to acts of aggression.
Accompanying Courtney was Adam Goldberg, Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division’s (NSWC IHD) Energetics Technology Division Director, who briefed NATO members on the post-blast effects on surface ships caused by underwater weapon systems. Courtney suggested bringing along Goldberg to discuss the underwater explosive effects, specifically the effects of bubbles post-explosion on ship structure.
“We’ve worked with Adam in the past and have him brief at our training events,” said Courtney. “He is an incredible resource and really breaks down the technical information on sub-surface post-blast effects on ship structures so everyone can understand it. The ability to utilize the scientists and engineers at NSWC IHD just gives us another tool in our toolbox.”
Goldberg recognizes the strategic importance of the command’s relationship with EXU-1 personnel and relishes the opportunity to continue these collaborations to give the warfighter the right tools and information to win the fight and return home safely.
“Now other countries know about our knowledge of lethality here at Indian Head,” he said. “Once we have the opportunity to educate them on some of our command’s focus areas, the conversation evolves and becomes much more collaborative.”
EXU-1 is an operationally deployable Type II, Echelon V command aligned under NSWC IHD. The unit hosts a variety of platoons designed to collect, process, exploit and analyze improvised threats, advanced weapons systems, munitions, ordnance, unmanned systems, and strategic infrastructure on land and sea to provide real-time targeting information and intelligence to EOD forces. EXU-1 was commissioned in June 2018 as an Echelon V afloat command and reports to NSWC IHD Commanding Officer Capt. Eric Correll, who serves as the immediate superior in command to EXU-1.
“As we are a diverse command, comprised of active duty warfighters, government civilians, and contractors, co-located with a warfare center, I see EXU-1 as a bridge between the technical community and joint force,” said EXU-1 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Edgar Britt. “With this in mind, we are continually discovering ways to capitalize on our proximity to NSWC Indian Head’s technical capabilities -- our core mission demands this type of collaboration. In this case, we were familiar with Adam’s expertise from our maritime post blast courses and knew that he could offer similar value to our NATO partners. We can and will build on this engagement.”
NSWC IHD — a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy’s Science and Engineering Establishment — is the leader in ordnance, energetics, and EOD solutions. The Division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, manufacturing and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.