The Protectors® Podcast

#466 | Jon Vaala | Pivoting from Bomb Technician to Civilian | U.S. Bomb Technician Association

November 15, 2023 Dr. Jason Piccolo Episode 466
The Protectors® Podcast
#466 | Jon Vaala | Pivoting from Bomb Technician to Civilian | U.S. Bomb Technician Association
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Jon's transition from a high-risk job as a bomb technician to civilian life was a profound journey. The conversation shed light on the physical and mental toll of this transition, emphasizing the importance of leaving such a career on one's own terms. The narrative delved into the challenges faced, such as the loss of everyday routine and the difficulty in shedding a significant part of one's identity, and how these changes affected an individual's psyche.

The conversation explored the evolution of bomb squad technology over the past 24 years. It covered the progression from wet films to the latest developments in digital x-rays, wireless technology, and drones, offering a rare glimpse into the technical intricacies of bomb squads. The discussion also touched on the themes of selfless service, the profound impact of tragic incidents, and the continuous march of technological progress, underscoring the vital role bomb technicians play in modern society.

This episode brought to you by Blackstone Publishing.  Make sure to check out Andrews & Wilson's SONS OF VALOR III! 

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Make sure to check out Jason on IG @drjasonpiccolo


Speaker 2:

the. I like having the.

Speaker 1:

Well, the cool thing about being freaked out is just hitting record. Hey, welcome to the Protectors podcast me, rijon Valar. What's up, brother?

Speaker 2:

I'm good man. It's, uh, it's been. I love that crazy time.

Speaker 1:

I love surprising people with that record button and the cool thing about this one is we're right here in person. We're in Arlington, virginia, johns here, and we're going to talk about one of the reasons John's here today, and that's for the US Bomb Technicians Association. But before we get into that, you're transitioning brother, you're pivoting, as I love to call it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah right.

Speaker 1:

When did you, when did you retire?

Speaker 2:

So I retired September 1st after 27 years. Yeah, I was at the Rebel County Sheriff's Office in Colorado.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know, when you say September 1st, like to me it was March 31st, but it seems like it was just yesterday yeah, and it's going to feel like that way for a while, and I think you and I are kind of going through the same. What is it like? It's not the stages of grief, it's like this, this sense of like, ah, but then it's like huh.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that because I had all these, I had these big plans, you know, going out to going up to the day, to retirement. You know I was going to take that first week. I was going to go camping by myself and like decompress, and and it was. I went camping and my mind was not my friend. I was like my mind was going a thousand miles an hour and I'm like, well, I should be doing this, I should be doing this. And you know, my wife is home working and I felt guilty about trying to be out by myself decompressing. And you know, when I was out hiking, I was better. Or you know, you know, out four wheeling in my truck, or yeah, I was, I was occupied. But when, when it was quiet time at night, you know, sitting by the fire man, that was, that was not a good time for my brain. So I ended up cutting my trip short, went back home and why was like, what do you, what are you doing? I'm like that wasn't a good plan and so I was. So I just, you know, but I think the hardest part about the whole thing was losing my like daily routine. And you know, I mean the job was good and everything. I didn't identify in myself as a cop or anything, but that, just that daily routine. You know I spent every afternoon in a gym. That was my sanctuary. And you know I lost that, that routine, and had no idea how dependent I was on that routine. And so losing that routine I was like lost.

Speaker 1:

I'm glad you brought up the bad thing identity with the job. The biggest thing for me was, you know, a 20 something years in law enforcement. It wasn't really the badge and gun, it was the idea. It was more the idea, like the idea of giving it up and a couple of weeks ago and like, as a fed, you can carry your gun pretty much anywhere, right, yeah? So one of my I think it was my kids or someone said, hey, you know what? Yeah, you can't bring your gun there. And that was one of my friends had the oh yeah, you can't bring your gun over there. And I'm like, yeah, I can't. I'm like, no, I'm not. Now I need to look at everywhere I go and everything I do, even if I have a CCW and leosa and everything else. It's the weird little things that you kind of pick up over the years and it's not like you take it for granted, but it's like it's part of your identity.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

You know, like now, when people say, what do you do? And I'm like well, I'm retired, but I'm really not retired, right. I mean we do other things. We're just not. We're just not a cop Right and it's weird mission space right now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that was, and I think I think the actual, the hardest part for me, because I, you know, I retired from the job in September but I retired after. You know, I spent 24 years in the bomb squad and I retired from the bomb squad in April and that was probably the hardest professional choice I made, because that I think that was more my identity and I just it just felt like it was time to go before I, you know it was, it just felt like it was time.

Speaker 1:

Now, when did you leave the bomb squad? April of this year. And did you do that because you knew you're retiring?

Speaker 2:

No, I just it just kind of felt like, you know, I didn't want to be that guy who stayed on too long and they're like I didn't want to be that guy. That was like, dude, it's time for you to go. And so I wanted to go while I was still functional and still. But you know, I'm starting to feel the physical toll on my body. You know, my neck is bad and wearing that bomb suit was it, was it was getting, it was hard on my neck. You know I got spinal stenosis in my neck and wearing that, you know, wearing that heavy helmet just was a, it was a, it was rough. So I'm like it's starting to starting to wear on me, it's. I think it's probably time and so that's where that's where I'm like. You know, I want to go on my terms and I'm like 24 years is a good run and you know, almost 16, almost 17 years of that I spent on SWAT as a preacher. I left, I left SWAT a couple years ago. You know I felt good about that decision, but leaving the bomb squad was hard, so I was, I was that that tore me up pretty good, because that was more my identity. And you know, and obviously I, you know, seven years ago I helped co-found the United States Bomb Technician Association. So I still get to stay in the community and, you know, super passionate about that. But the leaving leaving the squad was hard for me and you know I was still struggling with that a little bit. But but now you know, as as I go forward, that's what I get to do full time now.

Speaker 1:

So that's really cool and I'm excited about that and I think the biggest thing is this mission. I wrote that. That's one of my notes Every time I talk to anybody. That's pivoting transition. Retiring or anything is like man, if you don't have a mission, you're going to end up like when you're hiking and you have that downtime and your brain starts playing tricks. Oh yeah, my brain still plays tricks on me because, like you and I are roughly the same age I'm about to be 51. And it's like you start like weird things creep that you never, ever thought about before. Like if I watch some 80s movies now or some other things and I'm like it kind of reflects like I'm on the last phase, yeah, but it doesn't have to be like the end. Right, you know, I figure I still got, you know, some really good years left, oh for sure. And like when you're talking about now, when you're doing a mission, it's your mission, it's on your terms. There's no wake up in the morning and looking for your working emails or some BS bureaucracy. There's no, you know, pinging the middle of the night. There's like hey, you know, what I'm going to do is like with you, you have your association with me, I have my nonprofit, the protectors foundation and it gives us something like you give back, but then you get back on your own terms.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, and that's the thing it's, you know there's. So, you know, I love, I love the, the IOD and bomb technician community so much and I want to keep continuing to give back to it. And that was one of the things that you know, man, one of my board members, he's, he's career army UD and he's now retired in nursing school and one of our things is, you know, we're both super passionate about wellness and we, we wanted to, we wanted to. You know, we talked earlier this year and we really wanted to start a wellness program. So the that was the thing that you know. I decided it's like that's, that's my new mission is.

Speaker 1:

No, you're talking about for the, for the, for the association.

Speaker 2:

So we're starting a new branch in in the association and that's that's my new title as director of wellness.

Speaker 1:

Well, you know, you brought something up before we hit record too is about like Jiu Jitsu. And you know what I love wellness programs because, like, I'm always like and I hate to bring up the age again too but there's a lot of us who were, like you know, kind of beat up over the years. We need, like, let's say, you're 40 or 50. You can't do that. I look up online, I try to find a program that's going to be suited for me. You know, that's looking at like caloric intake, is looking at hypertension, it's looking at things that don't affect that 20, 30 year old guy or girl, right. And now I'm like huh, and like, when you brought up jujitsu so we were talking like before this and you just started doing jujitsu that I'm like, I've really been thinking about doing it. And you know, I tried it. I try like stupid me tried it three or four years ago when I was really big man, I was pushing some serious fat and I wasn't working out and I just said, hey, you know what, I'll just go do jujitsu, that's going to do it. But no, you need to prep the battlefield before you go and do this. And I feel like I'm finally at that point where, hey, you know what the battlefield is, prep, let's go do this. Yeah, so when you, when you're jumping into that and you have a background of martial arts and stuff, but you just use a new animal, so it was like for you jumping into that arena.

Speaker 2:

Well, like, because the beginning of the year, I mean this year's been a crazy year. I mean I started out the year I was almost 280 pounds and I just I was in a bad place physically and so you know, I was like you know what I'm going to I need to get, I need to get my health and check and I did 75 hard, completed it, you know strict, and you know, did the whole thing and I was super proud of that lost 30 pounds and, you know, went from 278 to to 248. So I was like super happy about that, just felt good about myself and that would that. That did amazing things for me. So I just I wanted to continue down that path and I didn't want to be that guy who, you know, we all hear about. Those guys, you know, right after they retire they die, yeah, and I'm like now I got, you know, I'm a grandfather now. I got two little grandsons, I got another one on the way and I'm like I love being a granddad and I like crushing that grandpa stereotype too. So it's, you know, I have so much to live for. And you know, in May, my, my cousin, he was like my little twin. He died at 44. And that just that hit me hard. So I was like I need to live for him. And you know, they still don't know how he died. He was riding his ATV to put it away before a storm and just died, fell off and died. And you know, autopsy was inconclusive. They said he died because he fell off and hit his head and like he didn't just fall off. So like my detective brain was going on overload on that one. And so I really have been on this you know journey for health and wellness and stuff. And then, when I retired and was completely lost, I started talking to some friends who did jujitsu and there's this kind of little group in the town close to mine that is mostly cops. It's a great tribe of people and I'm like I'm going and I've gotten and I've been doing it for she's like five weeks now go a couple times a week.

Speaker 1:

Now do you go to like an intro class or is like kind of like a round robin?

Speaker 2:

No, it's just first day, is you know? They teach you a couple things and it's through a fire hose and it's amazing. I freaking love it and the, but you know you just get wrecked by. You know everybody.

Speaker 1:

But you know, what I like about this is like I don't see you on a social media post and like you and a guy, or no gear or nothing, it's like you're doing it, man.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I just but the thing about it is so it's so cool the culture there is. So you know I get help from everybody, you know, and they're, they're like, you know, they're like you're not that spastic, completely spastic, white belt that's, you know, just trying to muscle through everybody. But you know, because I'm, you know, like I'm, I know I'm going to come in there and just get wrecked. And you know, we have some gorillas, high skilled gorillas in there, and our professors are monsters, they're beasts and it's like me wrestling with my grandson and he's 18 months old, like just total domination, like it's so humili, you know, it's so humbling and I'm like, but I love it and I'm like I've never I've used muscles, I haven't used in decades and I just the journey is so cool when you bring up the muscles in decades.

Speaker 1:

you need to like when you get to our age, yeah, you can go to the gym, but if you're not doing things for flexibility, yes, mobility stuff mobility, that's because, I look around and you see these, see these guys and girls who are like in their sixties and are like they're in their sixties, but they look at their 80, right, oh, man.

Speaker 2:

Well, and you know, it's kind of that old saying, it's like you know you see these old men, it's like you know they, their biggest regret is they're no longer dangerous and like I don't. That kind of scares me a little bit too. And you know, I feel like I've been a pretty skilled guy my whole life as far as what I've done in my career and I'm like I don't want to be that guy that just looks like a victim ever and carries myself like a victim ever. And you know cause I got, you know, like junior high school and stuff. I was pretty soft, I was you know kind of a tubby kid and and I got picked on real bad and that's kind of what molded me into the person I am today. And and I'm like I'm, I'm not going to, I don't want to be a bull, I don't want to be bullied ever, I don't want to be a victim ever again. And so that you know, that journey has turned me into the person I am today and I don't want to be that person as an elderly person either. I mean, obviously there's at some point you're going to be not effective physically, but if I can push that off as long as I can. You know that's, that's kind of the goal, so it's, we'll see.

Speaker 1:

I mean it's one show. There's a movie or a TV series the Old man with Jeff Bridges.

Speaker 2:

Yes, great show.

Speaker 1:

That was awesome. I'm like you know what you can. Be an old man, you can still be effective. You can combat effective. You know I love it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that was a good one.

Speaker 1:

You know, the foundation too is like. That's one of the reasons you're up here and I don't want to. I don't want to discount that, I want to talk about that yeah absolutely so. When did this start? And like now that you're going full time, I mean, last time we met it was a, you know, I was still fed and we were both bigger. Yeah, Granday, we're like the grande versions of ourselves. But and that's when you're a first start You're told me about the foundation or the association. I want to talk about that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so it's the United States Bomb Technician Association. We're we just had our seventh anniversary. You know where we support public safety. Military bomb technicians were the kind of the voice of the bomb technician community for Congress. We've really I mean, we've evolved so much in seven years. It's, it's really been an amazing journey. You know my, my partner, sean, has been running it on the business side of things. While I was a full-time cop and stuff, I was chairman of the board and I recently stepped down so I could take a full-time position. So I'm still a board member. But you know we have an amazing team. We do technology training, expose, where we give bomb text free training, and we partner with our technology partners or industry partners. And you know the the industry partners like it because they get to put their products in the hands of Bombtex and the bomb text like it because they get free training on products that they might have in their inventory or they might not. They might be interested in them. But that's Kind of everybody wins there and you know we're hoping to push technology to better, better, help the guys going down range. So it's, you know, hoping to, hoping to help the community that way. And then we also do a which is coming up here at the end of the month is our we call it our critical skills challenge. It's a top bomb tech competition, so we're super excited about that. That's my favorite event of the year. Um where's that it's in Orlando. Oh so Orlando. We hit the we they host. We hosted at the Orange County Sheriff's Office right shooting range where they do SWAT roundup. So it's, you know it's an individual competition. We test, we test, test these guys their basic skills at a high level. You know we it's 30 competitors over over four days and it's it's a really it's both public safety, military. It's a great time it fills up in hours when we open it for registration and I think you need some protectors down there, man.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure I need to come down, you gotta come check it out and it's what's the dates on it?

Speaker 2:

Um, it's, uh, it's so it's the Monday after Thanksgiving, so whatever day that is, so it's a, it's a great time. The um, so the last it's we've had. We've had both, you know, eod and public state. The last two years We've had public safety bomb tech winners, which you know I love seeing. I love seeing that. You know we have different winners every year, so that's really cool. One year. One year we had winners from three or we had our top three guys were or, or EOD, public safety and then a guy who was trained in the Canadian schoolhouse. So I thought that was super cool and the what are the events like?

Speaker 1:

can't just be all physical and there's no, it's um there's.

Speaker 2:

There's extra interpretation. There's a robotics course, there's and you get, and there's a rigging lane. There's a bombsuit search lane. There's A disruptor precision aim. There's there's 10 lanes and then there's a written test. It's crazy hard. Once it does any math, does that math sometimes, and there's electronics, id electronics there's a hand entry lane for. So if you had like a, you know you had to do a hand entry on a cat, it category, a device where you know, maybe attached to a person, you know, it's one of those things where you know, it's that parachute philosophy. It's like you better to have those skills and have them and not need them, and instead of need them and not have them. But it's a, it's a great time, it's. You know, I I came up with this concept when I was sitting in a movie theater. I'm like we need to have a competition and you know, other people made this competition great. They, they've made it. You know, our, our team made it happen and it's freaking awesome. This is gonna be the first year I'm not working a lane, so it's gonna be a little weird, but at least I get to see the whole thing, so that'll be a lot of fun. And then at the end we take the top 10 competitors and run them through a Almost like a hostage rescue type scenario and it's it's really fun. They have to defeat booby traps on a clock and and get to a, get to a hostage that's also wearing a bomb and I mean it's it's so fun and Guys have a great time with it, you know. And then we have we all, we also have we call it like an emerging technology event, where we have a whole bunch of our industry partners displaying technology, showing off their technology. So we invite people out for that and Let people you know, you know observers come out and use that technology on a lane and you know it's separate from the competition, but they can come out and and just demo stuff and See the technology that our industry partners have, and so that that's a really cool event. People can get on our website and register that for that. Still, you know, even if they're not competing.

Speaker 1:

You know, when you bring up technology and I'm thinking about like the knowledge transfer with the association, it must be great to be able to, like you know, because you have it's multi-discipline, so you're having a military, you're having civilians, you're having international. But you know, I think about technology and I think about like the 70s, like to me, the 70s were all about pipe bombs and all about these like improvised, improvised explosives. How has technology changed at EOD field?

Speaker 2:

Oh my gosh. I mean when I started, when I went to school, I mean I was a pretty 9-11 bomb tech so you know my I started on the bombs bomb squad the month before call the Columbine shooting. So you know, there was, I think there was 101 devices at that school and you know we had four bomb squads working as one at that at that school and my bomb squad was part of it. I was not there because I was testing for our patrol division that day. So that's like this is the introduction to the bomb squad is like holy crap. But when I started, when I went to the school house the the following year, the hazardous devices school in Alabama, I mean we were using wet film like Polaroids, it's like big Polaroids and you know it's TPX or 803 film and yeah, you can. One of them was a transparency that you could hold up and you're like, oh my gosh, but you know, living in Colorado, that stuff was susceptible to the cold. Oh, it's susceptible to the cold. So you're like warming your film on the dash of your truck and I mean it was so crazy that and then we got, then we got digital x-ray systems and and it evolved from there. I mean our first robot was a remote tech. I Was a remote tech mini and the the cable it was attached to was home, was probably three eighths inch thick and the farther it got it started doing a wheelie oh, because it was so heavy in the cable. But I mean, I just I loved running that robot and I mean all of it. But you know, then we got wireless technology and I mean the evolution of technology that I saw over 24 years was amazing. You know then drone technology and everything that has come along with it. It's like wow, you know digital, you know the digital mapping and and all that stuff.

Speaker 3:

You're like this episode brought to you by Blackstone Publishing. Why? Sons of Valor III by Andrews and Wilson is out now and I just finished it. I finished the audible during a long road trip and I was so immersed in this book I almost didn't want my road trip to stop. I absolutely love this series. Sons of Valor III is out now. You have got to pick it up, Seriously, Ray Porter Audible is one of the best audio series I've listened to and this book is amazing. It's like so many twists and turns I dig that you need to pick it up now. Andrews and Wilson's Sons of Valor III.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I didn't even think about like X-rays back then.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know, I mean the images you can pull on X-rays now with just like one pulse from an X-ray generator is you're like, holy crap. I mean you know the rules have changed so much with X-rays compared to when I started, with that wet film and stuff. I mean you can, instead of making multiple approaches. You're like, oh crap, that X-ray didn't turn out at all. You roll out your film and it's like a third of an X-ray. Then you missed the entire package because the X-ray didn't the gel didn't squish out or something, because it was too cold. And you're like, oh crap, I got to make another approach. And you're like, ah, this sucks, Okay, we got to do it again.

Speaker 1:

Now do they make something for like? Okay, so we know like, when you live near a big city or you got a big county or whatever, and you know, I mean I'm all about like lately, probably in the past year, it's always been about like the small departments and stuff. Is there like a course for, like you know, and not just the PowerPoint bomb you know like, is there like a really down to earth lowest common denominator course for, like the basic patrol person?

Speaker 2:

Um so.

Speaker 1:

Do you see that for identification?

Speaker 2:

Yeah so there's, um, there's a course in uh at uh shoot in Dallas, corden, new Mexico. It's uh, geez, my brain just went blank on it, but it's like a, it's like a recognition awareness type for IEDs. Um, it's a great course for for first responders, for both um uh, police and fire. So it was funny because I always knew when, like local area, denver area people would go. Sometimes I would get a call from people I knew and it's like, hey, I want to. I just went to the the uh, the uh. I went to Sucorro, I went to that course and you know, they blow some stuff Up, they show pipe bomb effects and it's really, it's a really good course. And then they do a, they do a vehicle bomb, they blow up like 500 pounds at the end, which was really cool too, um, but you know, I get a call from like a fire fireman or somebody I knew or somebody that had worked with our bomb squad before, and they're like, hey, uh, you know, I just went down to Sucorro and, um, you know, the course is awesome. How do I get on your bomb squad? I'm like, well, you have to become a cop and then do your time, you know, do your time on patrol and then assess for the bomb squad when we have an opening. We don't have a multi-agency bomb squad. Sorry, but you know it is a really good course for and it and it may, and it gives you an instructor certification too, so you can teach the awareness course to your agency.

Speaker 1:

So that was really cool to you and it and it really bugs me that I can't remember it.

Speaker 2:

I guess too many breaching shots, I guess. Um but uh, yeah, that's. Uh, it's a really good course and we try to send all of our you know guys, especially the brand new guys on the bomb squad, try to send them to that before, when they're still apprentice texts, and to give them an idea if they hadn't gone to it before, cause we try to, um, you know, get guys to go down there and and uh, well, that's the thing about it, like when you bring up technology and you bring up like to me in my mind.

Speaker 1:

I still think pipe bombs, I still think this, I still think that, but now the explosives have also progressed.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and and honestly that you know, pipe bombs are still a big thing and and I think the more, the more extravagant people get, this is the higher rate of failure. So the simpler things are, the more effective they are. And I mean, you know, with IEDs, you know they're they're they're limited by the imagination of the builder, the bomb builders so, but you're also limited by your skill and the technology you can acquire. But honestly, the most effective ones are the simplest ones. And you know, I've seen, seen a lot over my career where the guys tried to get too extravagant and and it's, you know it was there's. There's lots of points of failure when you try to get fancy.

Speaker 1:

That is true. Keep it simple, stupid yeah.

Speaker 2:

I mean the, uh, the, the Columbine shooters. You know they they sent secondary ID IDs in their cars that were meant to for first responders and you know they they didn't. They were luckily they were bad bomb builders because you know that could have, they set them out in the parking lot for in their cars and with with on propane tanks with pipe bombs and protein propane tanks and stuff, and uh, luckily they didn't know about electricity and continuity and things like that. So uh, their timers didn't work and and uh, guys, guys got lucky on seeing and you know that's, um, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, but sometimes we're lucky we have bad bomb builders.

Speaker 1:

Now we have technology with bombs and everything, but what suits, you know? I know I've seen the big suits. I've never put one on. I mean, has that changed a lot or do you still need? You pretty much still need a heavy suit for the it depends on the.

Speaker 2:

I guess it depends on the mission. You know, I mean the, uh, the bomb suits are good. You know there's a couple, there's a couple, there's pretty much two main suits. You know the Met-Eng is one of the manufacturer. The NP Aerospace has a bomb suit and it's, you know, has roots in in in England. So, uh, great Britain, we uh, the most popular one is the Ben-Eng um EOD 10 and you know people go back and forth on because they'd be designed, because I started on it with a, with a, with an EOD 7, you know, back in 1999 and, and you know they're heavy they're, but with the 10, they, they made it a little more form, fitting to reduce the blast over pressure from getting inside the suit through openings in the neck and the sleeves and stuff, and made it so that that didn't wreck your body. So some guys didn't like that. Some guys loved it. I guess it depends on how you're built. It's hard to build a suit, that's, you know it's a one size fits all. I mean, you know, like on my squad, you know, my commander, he's a, he's a little dude, you know he's 145 pounds maybe. You know five, nine, 145 pounds maybe. And then you got me, who's you know, six, one and two, 55. And uh, the uh, that's hard to build bomb suits, you know, because they, you know they'll come in like uh you know, a medium or a large, and so, yeah, that's tough being those manufacturers, cause I mean you put, you put 10 bomb texts in a room, you're going to get 15 different opinions.

Speaker 1:

Oh, yeah, I mean it's, it's 15 different sizes.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean it's uh, it's so funny Cause, you know, none of us stay the same size for all our careers. I mean, and so, but the technology's good, and but it's only as good as the size of the bomb too. And and and distance is everything I mean. I mean, several years ago there was a an event in Russia. A guy, a bomb tech, was working on an IED and he was right on top of it. He had disrupted it with a, with a disruptor and stuff before, had messed with it with the robot, and he was over the top of it doing, uh, doing um, you know, checking it out, and it went off. But he was right over the top of it and just destroyed him. Oh yeah.

Speaker 3:

And he did everything right and.

Speaker 2:

But inches, with blast over pressure, inches mean everything. So you know, the farther you are back when you, you, you're involved in a detonation, the the the safer you can be. But when you're right on top of something, you got no chance, so it's, you would say, that's a tough, that's a tough decision. You know, that was always the big joke on that movie. Uh, her locker, you know cause he's, he's working on a car bomb and and you know, yeah, he takes the bomb suit off. And I'm like, yeah, I'm like I guess, if I'm going to be involved in a V-Bid, I, I, I guess I want to be comfortable too, cause you know that's not going to if you're working on a device that has like five, one, five, fives on it or something you're. You're not going to feel a thing and that bombsuit is only going to hinder your movement. Or or working on a, on a device that's attached to a person. You know, I'm not. I'm not going to wear a bomb suit because that's only going to hinder my movement and or freak them out as well, yeah. It's going to freak them out. Well, you're all protected and and and uh, you know, I get you, get to watch me die if you screw up or something. And and uh, you know we, you know we risk a life to save a life, and but you know, that's the only time we're going to go hands on an a bomb. It's not like Hollywood and it's like I wish I had a nickel for every time. Somebody asked me you know what wire to cut, or something like that. Yeah, it's like it's all right, yeah, wait, red, you get your thing. You know, like riggs and myrtide, it's like you know, grab the cat and uh.

Speaker 1:

Well, you know that. That transition us into the next topic, and I think you'd be a really good uh advisor to the Andrews and Wilson Right. So we're looking at us. So, sons of valor three comes out this weekend. I just thought. I've had a copy of it here for me for uh John today, and it's like probably one of the best author groups out there. I mean seriously. They're um, very down earth guys and their, their books are all pretty damn solid All they're still got.

Speaker 2:

I love the tour one series. I love the shepherd series. I love, I love the. I love the sons of valor series. I'm so excited for this book.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I, I love the audio because I use reporters. Yes, he's, he's so great, he's the best. So, if anybody doesn't realize, andrews and Wilson are probably both of us. We're always talking about them like our favorite author out there and it's just, it's really cool because they're down to earth and if you need like anything from those two, they're like yeah, you know what you want, advice on writing and all the other stuff. But I'm sure they could use it like you know, eod advisor as well.

Speaker 2:

Right, yeah, I, I there's, those guys are, I mean I. I would be completely blown away if they like hey man, what do you think I'm like? uh, yeah, I would have, I would love to, but it's uh, I mean that's my you know, the this type of book, these guys and you know, like, like you know, jack Carr and and all those guys, those, that's that's such an amazing getaway and and yeah, I mean we're book nerds, but you know that's that's what I love about audio books, man Cause, when you're talking about getting your head, like me with the rocking and everything, I threw an audio book on or on my road trips Yep, and that's one of the things I.

Speaker 1:

that's why I travel so much lately too, is cause I I like to get on a road, listen to a book and just get away and makes it and makes the trip go fast. Yeah, Cause there's times I didn't want to pull over cause the book was so good and it'll last on Zavala. And then they you know, Taylor Moore has some good ones out now. Just there's so many different books, yeah.

Speaker 2:

I'm listening to uh heat too, right now.

Speaker 1:

Oh, that's a. That is I that listens to that too.

Speaker 2:

Such a great book. I mean the, the narrator, I mean he makes he, he sounds like Al Pacino and he's when he's when he's talking his Hannah.

Speaker 1:

And it feels like you're in the movie. No way.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so, good and that's my favorite.

Speaker 1:

My favorite movies are um heat number one, platoon number two, Ronan is really good, and then first blood, obviously yeah.

Speaker 2:

First, and the funny thing is like, um, I always loved the movie first blood, you know, as a as a you know kid who was born in the seventies, grew up, you know, and, and, and you know grew up at eighties action flicks, and so first blood was the first movie. That was like blew my mind. It was like I have to do something cool like that. But then I then, you know, listening to, listening to Jack Carr and his podcasts and stuff, and I was like then.

Speaker 3:

I read the book and my mind was blown.

Speaker 2:

It's so good. I mean David Morel. I was like, oh my gosh, this was such a great book and it it that, would you know? Cause he's like, oh, you got to read that. And then, uh, like that was, that was an amazing, the book was so good. I'm like I love the movie, but I'm like that took it to another level.

Speaker 1:

Cause it's more, it's almost like an anti-war. Yeah, yeah, it's like, but not like you think. You know my, my thoughts on war now, as a 50 year old, compared to when I was, you know, 20 joining the army, or so much different man, so much different.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean it's, it's, it's pretty easy to, you know, evolve and have have those opinions now especially you know this, this stage in life and and I mean we obviously both love this country very much and have served our entire lives in some capacity I mean I never served in the military but I've wanted, you know, I was always wanted to serve.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but I always sell, especially when I talk to first responders much responders, officers, anybody who's given back. You know, so many people take and so many people never give back. Yeah, and there's a certain percentage that do, and I think those people I should thank them for their service as well. Yeah, cause to me it's like not everybody put on a uniforms, a combat veteran, not everybody did this, did that or whatever. But when people have served in any capacity for any length of time, they still served.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, and it changes you as a person. I mean I mean it's selfless service and it's honorable service, but it changes you as a person. I mean, you know I'm not the same person as I was as a, you know, as a 22 year old going through the police academy, mm-hmm, you know the stuff I experienced, the. You know the. You know two school shootings I've responded to. The Aurora Theater shooting I've responded to, I mean that changes you on a cellular level and they people, unless they can understand that, you know, I mean people don't get it. I mean, you know I was talking to a friend of mine this morning about it and you know we were talking about the theater shooting and it was. You know there's visceral reactions to that type of thing. You know cause. I remember first walking in there, cause I had to search the theater so they could hold the crime scene. And I remember walking in there and two things that really stuck out were the, the smells and the sounds. And it wasn't even the the site, cause it was. You know you're standing in the middle of a massacre and the. You know cause I could hear cell phones going off and so you know, as a bomb tech cause when he was taking it, because he was mentioning something about bombs and stuff and it was more about his apartment. But he, you know people were concerned about he might have less secondaries in the in the theater. So you know, I had to clear the theater so they could hold the crime scene. So I had to search bags and bodies and stuff so they could hold the crime scene. So when I first went in there I mean it's kind of the enormity of the whole thing and it's like wow. But the thing that hit me was, you know, I can hear cell phones and part of my brain is like, you know, the human part of my brain was like it's loved ones, trying to find the people they'll never talk to again. And then the bomb tech side of my brain is like is somebody trying to trigger an IED? So I had this little, you know, internal brain conflict and like well, if I can hear that, if I can hear the cell phone and nothing's gone off, I'll be okay, I hope. But then the smell was, you know, because you go into you go into movie theaters it smells like popcorn and there's that heavy smell of popcorn. But then in this theater it was a heavy smell of popcorn, a heavy smell of blood, gunpowder and a hint of pepper spray, because he threw a gas canister of like CS gas type thing commercially by, like he was trying to block off exits with a gas canister. But that combination you could never replicate. I mean, that's seared into my brain and the but those like like hit me for and it was a certain ring tone like that kept going off on iPhones, that like that boing, boing, boing. That kept going off. Every time I hear that I like get chills and I do pretty good all the time, but it's like that one is has stuck with me forever and every time that I hear it it's like that gets my attention. Like you're, you're good, but it's funny, those those little changes that you you go through over a career and you know most people who have never really experienced true evil have, they have a hard time relating to that. And and that's when you know they get these strong opinions about the police or or whatever, and it's like I wish you could. I wish you could spend some time seeing and experiencing and feeling what we go through day to day. You know seeing, seeing watching a baby die, watching, you know seeing a family member's experience to finding a loved one who committed suicide. You know hearing those cries, those whales from a loved one. You know that's, that's stuff that you know, that's stuff that doesn't leave you. You know, I mean seeing a car crash where you know, people have been just destroyed in a car crash and you know it's like, I think, if you gave law enforcement some grace yeah, we're not perfect, we're human, but give us some grace on some stuff, because you know what is it. You know, the average person sees one or two traumatic events in their lifetime and cops see that almost on a shift and like that I think you see the absolute best of people and you see the absolute worst. And so, like you know, we don't expect, you know, parades every time, every time you know you see us, but maybe a little bit of, maybe a little bit of grace and a little bit of appreciation. I mean, there's a silent majority that truly appreciates what you know cops do day to day. But and and to be fair, there's times where our own worst enemy, we do some stupid things that do not help us help, you know, and those incidents become national news instantly. I'm like, yeah, but there's like tens of millions of citizen police contacts a year that happen, that are nonviolent, that happen, everybody's happy, or, you know, things go as they should, but you highlight the whole national media, highlights one event and it's epidemic, and then it comes to ACAP, like all cops are bastards. Right and I'm like, come on, it's like our percentage of good far outweighs a lot of careers. So I mean, how do you? But people are get so twisted up when they haven't experienced or seen evil or dealt with bad things, and they get so twisted up with the media and it's like, come on, give us.

Speaker 1:

You know the cell phones are great invention.

Speaker 2:

But social media and cell phones together are just like yeah, and they want bodycams, but they don't fully trust bodycams when you show them. This is well, this is what happened.

Speaker 1:

Well, that didn't really happen.

Speaker 2:

Well, it didn't happen that way, or they modified it. We can't so like, oh well, that sucks, but you know it was, it wasn't. I had an awesome career, you know, I was truly blessed.

Speaker 1:

Well, your career is not over.

Speaker 2:

No, my law enforcement career. But I was truly blessed. I, you know I got to do everything I wanted to do, except for I wanted to be a canine officer as a young patrol cop, but I never got to do that. That was the only thing I didn't get to do. That I wanted to do because I love dogs, but I really wanted to be a canine handler. But everything else I got to do is I, you know I was, I got to accomplish it and you know it was a crazy ride.

Speaker 1:

I'm super excited for this next, this next mission, brother. Yeah, I'm so excited I gotta see if I can make it down to the competition.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you should it's, it's a blast.

Speaker 1:

Well, brother, I appreciate you coming on the show and we're definitely going to keep in contact and yeah, absolutely, I can't wait.

Transitioning and Finding a New Mission
US Bomb Tech Assoc and EOD Evolution
Evolution of Bomb Squad Technology
Reflections on Travel, Books, and Service