NEWS | Aug. 14, 2018

Battlefield Detectives: the Forensic Exploitation Laboratory

By Sgt. Carlos Garcia U.S. Army Central

Most Soldiers do not think much about what happens to improvised explosive devices once they are found and disarmed by friendly forces. Some may believe that IEDs are taken somewhere in a controlled environment to be safely detonated or disposed of properly.

Sometimes properly disposing of IEDs is the only thing to do.

However, most times IEDs are sent to specialized laboratories where they can be analyzed and researched to help counter enemy forces.

The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory – Central Command located in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait is one of the many facilities where enemy weapons such as IEDs are analyzed by highly trained and educated professionals in various disciplines of forensic science.
“The great thing within our laboratory is that everyone is really passionate about the work we do,” said Roman Aranda, the supervisory chemist and laboratory manager for the FXL-C.

According to Aranda, “the laboratory takes the anonymity away from the adversary.”

Removing anonymity from enemy forces is a crucial advantage for any combatant commander in any area of responsibility.

“The lab is a culminating point for everything that comes off the battlefield in order for the intelligence community to get those products and information distributed out to those that are on the ground,” said U.S. Army Maj. Allen Spence, the officer in charge of the laboratory operations assigned to U.S. Army Central and attached to the FXL-C.

Another great thing about being a forensic lab in the military is that they can adapt and move much quicker compared to stateside and other federal laboratories, said Aranda.
The FXL-C networks with explosive ordinance device units, Special Forces and often times with partner nations to protect and support our nation’s forces.

They work closely with the Army Criminal Investigative Division, and the Terrorism and Criminal Investigation Unit,” said Spence. They also work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the International Criminal Police Organization, more commonly known as Interpol to push out information to 192 countries.

So far this calendar year, the FXL-C has closed over 440 cases, processed over 45,000 exhibits, documented close to 650 latent prints, and found over 70 biometric matches.

The FXL-Cs accomplishments have come through modernization and research efforts that help support the FXL-C’s four core principles: firearms and tool marks, DNA, chemistry, and electronics exploitation.

Being forward deployed and closer to the battleground is an additional capability the FXL-C provides to our ground forces.
“Working directly with the submitters we can provide them what they need to know as fast as we can,” said Mark Chapman, an electrical engineer assigned to the FXL-C.

“This mission is critical to the Army and it’s the focal point where everything meets,” said Maj. Allen Spence.

“Our main goal is to find the smart guy that is developing these tools such as IEDs and unmanned aerial vehicles,” said Chapman. “Not so much that guy that is using them, they are still a target, but if we can find that smart guy an eliminate him, that’s the main challenge.”

The men and women of the FXL-C deployed to these forward laboratories log-in long work days and sometimes nights. They also work every day of the week during their six-month tour, because they recognize the contribution it makes on the battlefield by exposing enemy forces new and old tactics.

“If it’s a new device that’s come out we will find it and figure out how it works and we will get that information back out to the [intelligence] community,” said Spence.