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Alumnus brings GBI experience to criminal justice students

Matt Howard, a 2000 graduate of UNG who now is a special agent bomb technician with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, shows students one of the agency's specialized robots.

Criminal justice students at the University of North Georgia (UNG) received an internal look at one of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) most highly-trained units and the opportunity to interact with specialized equipment at a recent career presentation by Special Agent Bomb Technician Matt Howard. 

A UNG student tries on a GBI bomb suit.

Howard, a 2000 graduate of UNG, is a fully qualified bomb technician for the Special Operations Unit Underwater Explosives Team and spoke to students recently about career paths and options in the GBI Special Operations Unit. The GBI Special Operations Unit is the only FBI tier-one bomb unit in Georgia – an elite status meaning the unit is at the highest level of qualification for responding to explosive threats of varied natures.

"The GBI's Special Operations Unit is very well-developed compared to other similar units because of several past occurrences," Howard told students. "These include events such as the '96 Olympics in Atlanta and the Eric Rudolph bombings."

To demonstrate the real-life nature of explosives as compared to how they are portrayed in television and movies, Howard showed pictures of the components of a homemade explosive device and footage of a truck bombing in Manchester, England. Howard said movies often depict explosives as neatly wired and compact, whereas most homemade explosives actually are a tangle of wires and other materials.

"You'll also notice that there's very little fire involved in the explosion, although most movie explosions show huge flames," Howard said while showing the truck bombing footage. "In reality, the overpressure created by the explosion is what causes the most damage."

Outside, Howard also showed the class one of the GBI's 10 explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) trucks, and the EOD robot contained within. He brought the four-wheeled robot out and explained some of its capabilities and how the team might use it in certain situations. He also strapped a student volunteer into an 85-pound special suit that bomb technicians sometimes wear when responding to a threat.

Howard was invited by UNG instructor John Cagle, who retired from the GBI as special agent in charge of the investigative office in Cleveland, Georgia, after 34 years of service.

"My criminal investigations course provides students with information that will enable them to understand the legal requirements to successfully investigate crimes," Cagle said. "Part of that process is to identify resources available to investigators that can assist in that process. Introducing students to the capability of other agencies that can help, such as the GBI Special Operations Unit, is a big part of the course."

Other topics Howard discussed with the students included conventional bomb disposal, assault support and explosive breaching, protective operations and event support, post-blast investigation and evidence collection, and technical services support.

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