2/26/2008 12:00 AM
Twenty-four people are training for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, in College Station. They are changing career paths and risking their lives for a huge pay out.
At first glance it looks like an ordinary classroom, but this class is made up of students of all different ages and from all walks of life. Plus, they all share a common goal.
"There in it for the money," TEEX UXO Course Instructor Ed Fritz said.
Nancy Hines was studying art in Italy, when her financial well went dry.
"I knew I would run out of money before I finished the school, which I did," Hines said.
The 13-year veteran art teacher from Houston, cashed in her retirement to study overseas.
When her trip was cut short, she started looking for something to replenish her bank account.
"I should be able to make enough before all that long to go back over and finish school," Hines said.
Nancy and about 20 others are part of a five week course offered by the Texas Engineering Extension Service in College Station.
For about $7,000, students become certified technicians.
"Here in the states you can make between $40 and $85,000 a year going out and removing ordinances," Fritz said.
The course is certified by the U.S. Defense Department. It teaches students how to identify and destroy bombs that have not been detonated and how to properly dispose of them.
"We will teach you how to do it safely so you don't kill yourself blowing it up," Fritz said.
The course also prepares students to work as private contractors in Iraq. A job that can pay up to $165,000 a year.
"I was looking for ways to get over there and serve and also every single adult male in my father's generation served and not one of us kids have," Hines said.
For many, the reasons for taking the course are the same, but the student's career paths differ.
From teachers, to engineers, to recent high school graduates they are all looking for something different.
However, don't be fooled, the class is not as easy as it looks.
"In an average class of 24 we're going to lose between two and four people per class," Fritz said.
The instruction may be a lot like military basic training. That is because one wrong move may be the difference between life and death.
"It's all such important information, because if you don't get it in your head and get it right it's your life and whoever is standing next to you," Hines said.
"Not everyone is meant to be a firefighter, not everyone is meant to be a cop, not everyone is meant to be a UXO (unexploded ordinance)instructor there's a lot of repetition, there's a lot involved with it," Fritz said.
UXO technicians can also be employed here in the United States. Fritz says there's 15 to 20 million acres of land that has to be cleaned. This includes formerly used defense sites and any government property that is being turned over to civilians.
The career may be exciting, but it is not all fun and games.
Even though the mortality rate for civilian trained bomb technicians is very low, a few have died while working in war-torn areas.
Luckily, no TEEX-trained civilians have been killed or seriously wounded.
Wednesday night at 10 p.m., we'll take a close look at demolition day. It is an explosive experience you don't want to miss.