Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TEEX Wounded Warrior - Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Demonstration

Center for the Intrepid

Recently,  TEEX Public Safety and Security (PS&S) received an interesting call from Wendy Foster, a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Department of Veterans Affairs at the Center for the Intrepid. Located at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the center is a rehabilitation facility for amputees and burn victims of the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan.

Wendy has helped scores of our nation’s Wounded Warriors. One of her current clients was interested in pursuing a vocation taught by our PS&S division, but his disability presented some questions.

In 2006, Army Staff Sergeant Tyler Sloan was shot by a sniper in Mosul, Iraq. Damaged nerves in his right foot required its amputation. Sloan, a tall, good-looking young man was getting along well with his prosthesis. He was considering several possible new vocations, including underwater welding and flying, as well as searching for and destroying unexploded ordnance. TEEX offers a 4-week unexploded ordnance (UXO) technician course that not only fit Sloan well, but also qualified for Veteran’s Administration funding.

There was a potential problem, though. The primary tool of unexploded ordnance technician is a metal detector, and the ferrous metals in prosthetic limbs were thought to interfere with the devices.

Training Coordinator and former Naval EOD Technician, Ed Fritz, who oversees TEEX’s UXO program, felt that Tyler might be a good subject to test the interference theory.  If there was none, or if it could be mitigated, then an appropriate vocation could open up for many of our returning veterans with prostheses.

On November 18, Tyler made the short drive from San Antonio to Texas A&M University’s RELLIS Campus, home of the program. Fritz and Sloan spent some of the day together working with the metal detector on the TEEX UXO grid.

On the following day, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, Veterans Administration, unexploded ordnance industry’s certifying organization, and private industry converged on Riverside to witness a demonstration.

Wendy and Tyler explained his primary prosthetic, which was chosen for the day because it had the highest number of metal parts and was most likely to cause interference. Ed Fritz then briefed the group on the metal detector and the possible interference issues.

The party then moved to the UXO training area. Sloan slowly began to work in the sand grid, a 100 feet x 100 feet area full of various unexploded munitions. Using the detector, Sloan discovered several pieces of ordnance, including a land mine. As photographers circled and the  group watched from a distance, Sloan confidently made his way through the field. He demonstrated not only his ability to find the ordnance, but the physical dexterity needed to dig it out of the ground.

Back at the Public Safety and Security division’s headquarters, the official observer group was careful not to state an official opinion. However, everyone's mood reflected the apparently successful demonstration. Once again, TEEX brought together government and industry to help our citizens. As long as there are Wounded Warriors, hopefully, we’ll see more and more of them in the Brazos Valley.

Tyler's Landmine

For more information on TEEX’s Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Technician course, visit the UXO website or contact Ed Fritz at 979-862-3410.

For more information on the Center for the Intrepid and the Fallen Heroes Fund, please visit the Fallen Heroes Fund website.

Sam White is a communications specialist and blogger for theTexas Engineering Extension Service and welcomes your comments. Know of something interesting happening at TEEX? Please submit blog ideas to

Thursday, November 4, 2010

TEEX Director Gary Sera Discusses Green Rural Economic Development

The more things change ... the more they stay the same. Those of you who were around in the late 1970's may remember the oil embargo and the line of cars waiting to fill up their tanks at the local gas station. At the time, I happened to be working my way through college in one of those gas stations. As gas became more and more expensive, people starting looking at smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Energy conservation became a big deal as home owners started insulating their homes, sealing their windows and adjusting their thermostats. Then a funny thing happened. Oil prices dropped, and then the only people who were still looking at energy efficiency were those “weirdos” who had nothing better to do.

Some years later the Valdez oil spill occurred, and guess what? We all became environmentally conscious again, going through another cycle of energy conservation and recycling. Can you see the pattern? Over the years, we have been trained to associate “green” behavior with negative events: oil embargoes, wars, oil spills, global warming, etc, etc, etc.

I think we have learned our lesson. Now is our chance to be proactive about Green energy and development. I am very excited to present our Growing Green Communities Initiative. This is about the positives associated with behaving in an environmentally friendly manner. It is about businesses being more successful and more profitable. It is about people being healthier. It is about leaving our future generations the resources they need to be healthy and happy. Through a series of conferences and workshops, people from throughout the country will be sharing ideas and best practices about how we can all benefit from thinking and behaving Green. We will learn that it is good business to be Green. We will learn that going Green is not complicated; it is simple. Plus, we will find out that it is interesting. And, dare I say it, fun.
As we travel throughout the state (our first conference is in Odessa, Texas, on Dec. 1-2), we’ll be keeping you updated on the latest ideas, techniques, and information that will help your business, your community, and your bottom line.

To stay tuned to our Growing Green Initiative, visit any of these sites, where we are updating information daily:

Growing Green Communities Website

Growing Green Communities on Facebook

Growing Green Communities on Twitter

Growing Green Communities Blog

I look forward to seeing you in Odessa!

Gary Sera is director of the Texas Engineering Extension Service and invites your comments.