2/6/2009 12:00 AM
TEEX's Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Technician I program - the first civilian course of its kind recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense - is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. Offered by TEEX's Public Safety & Security division, the 200-hour program has graduated more than 435 technicians.
Paul Ihrke, who was trained as a U.S. Army EOD technician, began developing the course in 1996, drawing upon his background and knowledge of industry needs. Ihrke and retired U.S. Navy EOD Technician Rex Shipp led the first course delivery, which took place at Texas A&M University's Riverside Campus and at Pine Ridge, SD, in February 1999. The initial group of 25 students were members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who had been hired by the contractor responsible for clearing munitions from the Badlands Bombing Range.
Ed Fritz, a retired U.S. Navy EOD Technician, currently serves as TEEX's UXO Training Coordinator, and along with a cadre of 35 adjunct instructors with EOD and hazardous devices experience, conducts five classes a year. Students also have the option of completing TEEX's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) course, which meets the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' requirements for Tech I certification.
"The UXO program has flourished at TEEX," said Public Safety and Security Division Director Tom Shehan. "We've come a long way in 10 years, and I believe it's due to the initial groundwork laid by forward-thinkers as well as the quality of our current staff."
C. David Douthat, former Director of Ordnance and Explosives, USAESCH (U.S. Army Engineering Support Center, Huntsville), had this to say: "The Texas Engineering Extension Service has played an invaluable role in the training of UXO Tech I's. The tremendous demand for qualified UXO Technicians to support the Coalition Munitions Program in Iraq, as well as the ongoing Military Munitions Response Program, was supported by these graduates and played an important role in the execution of these nationally important missions. It would have been difficult to support these programs without the TEEX UXO graduates."