Booming Business draws students to course

10/24/2007 12:00 AM

An explosive five-week course has started to reel students to College Station in hopes for life changes.

Taressa Graves, a hair dresser from Michigan, is among those who was drawn to the Texas Engineering Extensive Service course that teaches its students how to detonate explosives.

"I sat around for a whole year looking on the computer for a job that I would be happy with and nothing really caught my eye," she said. "...It's an opportunity, in my opinion, of a lifetime."

Military bases, across the country are littered with unexploded ordnance, ammunition that was fired, but never blew up. Graves and her classmates are learning to clean up the dangerous mess without blowing themselves up.

Ed Fritz, who runs the school for the Texas Engineering Extension Service, said it isn't a dangerous job if one knows what they are doing.

"And that's what we teach you here," he said.

It is nerve wracking. In fact, one out of every six students doesn't make it through the course.

While the equipment may look simple, holding the small silver blasting cap is just like holding a little gun. Static electricity in the air can cause it go off.

However, those who learn to make it blow at the right time can earn big money. The amount of money gets even bigger for those willing to go overseas.

"If they go over to Iraq, they can make $165,000, $170,000 a years, starting out," Fritz said.

Room, board and tuition for the class costs about $12,000. The class has drawn an interesting range of folks.

"My last job, I was the outreach coordinator for the Organ and Tissue Donor program in the state of Illinois," said Zack Brinkmeier of Illinois.

"High school, I graduated in May," said Jessica Hodgkinson of Colorado.

"I've always liked blowing things up," said Shawn Rhodes of Florida. "Getting paid for it is even better."

Instructors said with U.S. military operations in full swing around the country and the world, explosive experts will have lots of work for years to come.

"It's going to be, forgive the pun, a booming business," Fritz said.

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Kathy Fraser

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