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Johnnie Green, a Raven’s Challenge bomb technician instructor, leads a demonstration at the Center for Fire and Explosives, Forensic Investigation, Training and Research in Pawnee, Oklahoma..
Johnnie Green (left), a Raven’s Challenge bomb technician instructor, leads a demonstration at the Center for Fire and Explosives, Forensic Investigation, Training and Research in Pawnee, Oklahoma.

Forensic Sciences program hosts national Raven's Challenge explosives training

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Media Contact: Sara Plummer | Communications Coordinator | 918-561-1182 | sara.plummer@okstate.edu

A few miles outside of Pawnee, Oklahoma is the Center for Fire and Explosives, Forensic Investigation, Training and Research (CENFEX) Range, part of the School of Forensics Sciences at the OSU Center for Health Sciences.

The CENFEX range is a mile long and half a mile wide where OSU-CHS students receive training in the Arson, Explosives, Firearms and Toolmarks Investigation program. The range also serves as a training ground for local, state and federal law enforcement and military officials.

Areas of training and research include fire, detonation, explosives and post-blast investigation and research; crime scene analysis; fire origin and cause investigation; trace explosive analysis and more. 

The range property was purchased four years ago and opened about two years ago.

“Having an explosives range for a university is a rare thing. They’re only a few in the country,” said John Frucci, EdD; Arson, Explosives, Firearms and Toolmarks program director and CENFEX director.

In March, CENFEX and Camp Gruber in Muskogee hosted Raven’s Challenge, a week-long training exercise where teams of military personnel and federal, state and local law enforcement agents train together on several different explosive-related scenarios. It’s funded by the Army and led by Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“The teams are made up of half military and half law enforcement. That allows them to work together and identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Both groups are learning from each other,” said Alan Futvoye, a Raven’s Challenge observer and controller. “We’re not here to judge them, we’re not here to grade them, they’re just here to learn and utilize their experiences.”

Raven’s Challenge holds four to five regional exercises each year, and this was the first time they utilized OSU’s CENFEX Range, but hopefully it won’t be the last, said Johnnie Green, bomb tech instructor with Raven’s Challenge.

“Real estate is very difficult to find and do this kind of training. OSU’s facility is just second to none. It’s one of the better facilities I’ve been to,” said Green. “To have a dedicated range like this is very important. To be able to do real, live-fire training, it can mean life or death. We hope OSU will have us again.”

Hosting events like Raven’s Challenge and other training sessions is exactly what the CENFEX Range was created for.

Erik Polak, vice president of administration and finance at OSU-CHS, said when he was presented with the opportunity to open a specialized training and explosives range, it made sense.

“Not only would it advance our program, but we saw a need in our law enforcement agencies. It’s become harder and harder for them to find a place to train,” said Polak. “We had the opportunity to help, it fits our mission, and it fits our program.”

Frucci, a former sheriff’s detective and bomb technician for Essex County, New Jersey, said intelligence is so important in the field of arson and explosives. Having the CENFEX range and hosting events like Raven’s Challenge means many more technicians, law enforcement officers and members of the military will have that training and intelligence they need to save lives.

“We want people to use this facility and take the opportunity to train,” he said. “It’s an Oklahoma asset, not just an OSU asset.” 

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