Augmenting the AOR: EOD Airman provides critical skillset to Army forensics team
By Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 23, 2018
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (AFNS) -- This story is part of the JET/IA “Augmenting the AOR” series, covering the unique missions and skill sets Airmen provide to coalition and sister-service mission partners throughout the deployed area of responsibility.
Visiting the Central Command Forensic Exploitation Laboratory, located at Camp Arifjan, is an experience similar to watching a television show like ‘CSI’ or ‘NCIS,’ at least in appearance. From particle separators to a ballistics lab, the location seems to have everything a team would need to crack the case, solve the crime and ride off into the sunset.
However, according to Master Sgt. Michael Breive, Forensic Exploitation Laboratory – CENTCOM noncommissioned officer in charge, television shows are not even close to capturing the uniqueness of their mission, the team dynamic, or how much work there is to accomplish.
“This is nothing like the TV shows where one or two characters solves the case alone,” Breive said. “It is a team effort where every single person brings something unique and important to the table. There are multiple supporting roles that all have a hand in processing just one piece of evidence. And unlike television, we produce real-world results.”
Breive, who serves as an explosive ordnance disposal technician from the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said this deployment is a much welcomed change of pace. Instead of suiting up and disarming improvised explosive devices, he is lending his near-decade of experience to FXL-C by overseeing the activities of the forensics laboratory.
“As an EOD Airman, we are usually the ones out there in the field,” he said. “We don’t usually get a chance to see the ‘behind-the-scenes’ action that happens after we collect a sample, or finish our job.”
According to Army Maj. Allen Spence, FXL-C officer in charge, Breive’s role isn’t just important – it is paramount for his office’s success. He said Breive is responsible for conducting forensic exploitation of all captured enemy material throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility. Furthermore, he is directly responsible for the safety of the lab itself and all of the personnel, allowing his team to direct all focus on processing evidence for forensics and intel.
Spence said the results his team provides helps investigators across the Department of Defense identify the contents of an explosive by detecting trace elements of materials. This helps the investigative teams identify patterns and determine if the explosives are being made by the same person or persons. He also stressed the importance of a ‘good’ sample.
“Providing a quality sample to the lab for evidence purposes can literally make or break an investigation,” Spence said. “From visiting physical blast sites, to routing the proper paperwork and coordinating the actual movement of assets, it is the NCOIC’s job to ensure a quality sample is ready for the team to review.”
“You can't fake a DNA profile or fingerprint,” Breive said. “Our analysis provides mission partners the ammo they need to conduct their investigations and complete the mission. Working here has been eye-opening, as this team places the scientific method over opinions and speculation – allowing the truth to be discovered.”
In addition to his work functions, Breive said he also serves somewhat as the shop’s defacto first sergeant, assuming numerous additional duties to help other members of his team. In these duties, he ensures lodging and meal cards for personnel as well as providing solutions for logistics and personnel issues.
Breive said the workload and immersion in the U.S. Army culture is nothing new to him. With dozens of joint-missions and several deployments under his belt, Breive said working for FXL-C is one of the most rewarding and eye-opening experiences in his entire Air Force career.
“Working with this team has helped me grow as an NCO,” he said. “Having the chance to work in this office, I now see all of the effort that goes into an investigation – and I feel I have a lot more to offer my Airmen once I return home.”