Lawrence Livermore employees travel to Texas for Explosives Handler training at TEEX

BRYAN, TEXAS – An innovative training program for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has brought nearly 50 employees from California to an explosives range at the RELLIS Campus in Bryan, Texas, over the past two years. The latest group graduated from the Explosives Handler Training Program on March 29.

The Program was jointly developed by LLNL and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), which has been offering explosives training courses for 20 years. LLNL conducts explosives research and development and supports a wide variety of National Security missions including the nuclear weapons complex.

“We need personnel who have training and experience working with high explosives,” said Brian Cracchiola, manager of the High Explosives Applications Facility at LLNL. After an “exhaustive search” for a partner to assist with training a new generation of workers to safely handle explosives, TEEX was the best fit, he added.

“TEEX was open to working with LLNL to jointly develop a blended learning course, and one where LLNL instructors teach alongside TEEX instructors,” he said. “We partnered with TEEX to develop a course that allows our people to get hands-on training from an organization that has years of experience training other individuals to work in national security applications with explosives.”

Curriculum developers from both organizations designed the specialized Explosives Handler Training Program, where participants learn about the lifecycle of an explosive — from its synthesis to its testing at LLNL’s Contained Firing Facility. After completing 40 hours of online training, LLNL employees travel to Texas for two weeks of immersive training at TEEX, which includes hands-on experience detonating explosives on the explosive range at the RELLIS Campus. To successfully complete the program, participants must pass a final exam and complete a capstone exercise in a mock laboratory modeled to replicate labs at LLNL.

“It’s been pretty amazing and it’s evolutionary for us,” Cracchiola said. “Traditionally we’ve done on-the-job training. Here at TEEX, we’ve been able to turn what was subjective training into quantifiable tasks, so we know that people are gaining mastery of knowledge-based tasks.” The timeframe for training a new employee to achieve qualification has decreased dramatically, from 18 to 24 months down to six months, he added.

“This sort of training is all about driving home safety processes,” Cracchiola said at the launch of the program in 2017. “Imagine if this model could be scaled across the national laboratory complex. When we collaborate with other labs, we would all be working to the same standards.”