A certified explosives specialist (CES) is a special agent who specializes in investigating violations of federal explosives laws, including bombings and thefts of explosives. They also work with partner agencies to solve crimes related to the unlawful use, storage, manufacture and distribution of explosives.
As experts on explosives and bombings, a CES provides technical assistance to local authorities, first responders and other public safety officials to help solve violent crimes. A CES can pursue specialized career paths such as becoming explosives detection canine handler (EDC), which allows them to partner with ATF K-9s to find explosives and firearms-related evidence. They also give trainings on a variety of explosives-related topics to other ATF personnel, law enforcement officials, public and private safety organizations, military personnel and international partners.
To become a CES, ATF special agents must attend two years of specialized real world and classroom explosives ordnance training in addition to graduate-level courses in explosives technology and engineering. During the training, candidates also learn about the identification of explosives materials, explosives chemistry, pyrotechnics, and homemade and improvised explosive devices. They also apply their skills by serving on real-world explosives-related investigations, disposal operations, and explosives demonstrations.
Once certified, the CES must recertify their credentials every two years.
Tactical Resources and Technology
Certified explosives specialists use a variety of resources to investigate and respond to explosives incidents. For example, they wear explosive ordnance bomb suits to protect them from blasts while working in the field. The blast suits are designed to withstand all levels of blast pressure and prevent bomb fragments from causing injuries. They also have access to cutting-edge technologies like robots to support interagency criminal investigations. Controlled by a CES, these tactical explosives robots can safely survey a dangerous area or crime scene, analyze various types of explosives materials, disrupt or destroy bombs in a controlled manner, and remove explosive devices without putting lives at risk.