Trigger Points: What is it really like to be on the bomb squad?

ITVnew six-part horror movie of Activation Points stars Vicky McClure as an explosives officer with city ​​police Bomb disposal The squad is trying to stop an ongoing domestic terror campaign across London.

Written and executive produced by Daniel Brierley Jed Mercuriothe person behind the BBC Quest Line and Bodyguardthis series showcases the exceptional bravery of counter-terrorism officers who frequently take long walks toward oblivion, and conveys the same high-octane tension as Kathryn Bigelow’s. Iraq war film Wound Locker.

McClure and co-stars Adrian Lester Yes express their admiration for the real-life “exhibitions,” who put their lives first to keep the public safe, asked to solve whatever diabolical puzzle box comes their way with a cool head, while Brierley stressed the importance of making the show as affordable as possible out of respect for their profession.

Talking to National World“I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the Met team and I really gained insight into the technical elements of the job,” the writer said. I’m going to have the structure of the episode, and then as I’ve perfected the rhythms of it, I’m going to spend some time on the show and figure out what can actually happen until we have make it as real as possible. “

Addresses concerns related to the production of a drama series such as Activation PointsCaptain Ivan Olbrechts, secretary of the Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal Officers Club, told The Independent: “To create ‘safe’ devices designed to kill and kill requires specific tactics, techniques, and procedures. [TTPs] match the assessed threat.

“Terrorists and murderers will be cunning in designing such devices to prevent them from being easily detected, defeated, or disarmed. We’ve seen the enemy adapt to our TTP and it costs lives.

“My personal opinion about the TV description of ‘bomb disposal’ is that it shouldn’t depict anything that could serve as a training guide for bomb-makers.”

However, Captain Olbrechts expressed confidence that the experts present had “given careful and responsible consideration in this regard when advising the programme”.

For its part, the Met accepted the series on Twitter, and even appointed the actual head of its Explosives Disposal Unit (EOD). Post a thread explaining his team’s duties in the Counter-Terrorism Command.

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However, episodes of Activation Points The broadcast so far has drawn criticism from online viewers, some of whom have questioned the decision to kill a central character early on, the speed with which another returned to work shortly after the tragedy. and especially McClure’s character’s habit of removing her helmet in the face of seemingly impending danger.

Actors have protect the program against this last charge, say Digital espionage that wearing a helmet “can really be distracting, depending on what kind of small space you might be working in. Plus, if it hits anything, it could just be a dangerous thing to do.” . In fact, if an explosion happens, that little helmet won’t help, so it’s best if you put it away.”

Lucy Lewis, Britain’s first female bomb disposal officer, also raised eyebrows at McClure’s Lana Washington accidentally reaching for a light switch near the scene of the bombing without checking its wiring in the first episode. fairy, speak Daily telegram The plot point, for her, is a “tea moment”.

“On the first day you are told never to touch anything. If she finishes even a week at bomb school, she will know never to do it,” she said, in return complimenting her. Activation Points for its realistic depiction of the stress this dangerous line of work places on the families of those involved.

Brierley has said that he was inspired to write about EOD professionals after seeing the BBC documentary Bomb Squad Men: The Long Walka moving film from 2012 that follows three retired British Army ammunition technicians (ATO) officers – Paul Wharton, Dave Young and Dave Greenaway of 321 EOD Squadron – returning to Belfast, Derry and Lisburn and recall their mission trips to the top troubles in the early 1970s.

According to the film, the first homemade IRA bombs began appearing in 1969 and were rudimentary and slightly different from those used by republican revolutionaries in the 1880s, but the devices The game quickly became more sophisticated and dangerous and by 1972 1,500 had been deployed, forcing differentiated specialists to keep up with the ever-evolving technological developments or face challenges. serious consequences.

The pressure escalated with the advent of car bombs, leading to the development of the first remote-controlled Army robots to tackle them.

With a characteristically humble personality, Major Wharton describes the trio, originally ammunition inspectors, as simply “ordinary men doing an extraordinary job” after being forced to must reuse their expertise to handle “to the teeth a storm the world has never seen”.

Wanting to downplay their own heroism (“We did the job we were trained to do”), the men enjoyed massaging the dramatic cliches common in their craft.

“When Northern Ireland was first established, the tools of the trade were pieces of tin. Scissors,” ATO Young recalls. “We didn’t have the remote control, so a lot of the equipment was originally cut into Stanley knives. The business of going to a bomb and cutting the red cord is pure Hollywood. The only time I cut the cord is if I open up a device and it’s all set up and I know exactly what I’m dealing with.”

Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester in Trigger Point


Now, he’s used to pruning rose bushes in an idyllic English country garden on the IRA: “We didn’t think too much about the terrorists we had to fight. We’re more involved in the intricacies of the equipment they’re growing, and I consider it a privilege to do that. It’s a job where you’re the man on the ground – the only one who can really solve the problem. ”

Major Greenaway also stressed the importance of staying calm: “Bomb-makers, as far as I know, I don’t consider them really my own enemies… But, you have to respect the fact that they’re obvious. are very intelligent people. The electrical engineering on many of their devices is absolutely brilliant. We are not interested in the politics of the bombers… There is no investigation into who actually placed it or why it was placed. We went there just to eliminate that. “

Also interviewed was Colonel Gareth Collet, who later trained ATOs for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the War on Terror, who listed “courage, selfless commitment and clear thinking” as essential traits for the job.

A similar perspective is offered in Channel 4’s more recent documentary series Inside the Bomb Squad (2020), following the Army’s Explosives Search and Disposal Regiment, whose members across the country are called 2,000 times a year to dispose of suspected devices, remind us that estimates There are still about 21,000 unexploded bombs left over from the Second World War in general in Britain.

That performance followed the highly trained regiment, selected from the ranks of the British Army, Navy and Royal Air Force, on missions including a raid on a flat in Manchester, where The occupant had stockpiled gunpowder and unstable chemicals and went to Marlow in Buckinghamshire, where a member of the public came across an antique grenade and took it to work to show his horrified colleagues.

Explaining his appeal to the job, Sergeant Alex “Swansea” Hughes, a veteran of the 2017 Manchester Arena attack, admits: “There is a balance between adrenaline and fear that is at play. happens – you are trained to handle it. It’s always exciting to deal with something that’s a threat. “

In Manchester, Sergeant Steve Cockburn expressed the burden of responsibility on their shoulders and the difficulty of operating in an urban environment: “The worst-case scenario is you claim a safe shot and then a member of the crew injured public. The role that we provide is extremely important. ”

As in the dark days of the Troubles, the exact nature of the threat is always evolving, according to small-time cop Andy Coulson: “Someone’s kitchen could be a bomb factory. There is no limit on IED [improvised explosive device]. It just depends on the bomb-maker’s imagination and what he can stop.”

Another man who might bring new light to the discipline is American author Ted Gerstein, who discussed his time with the New York City Bombing Squad in the years following 9/11. in an interview with NPR’s Talking about the nation.

Vicky McClure’s Lana Washington Under Pressure at Trigger Point


He explained that the bomb disposal experts he encountered in the oldest US bomb unit, founded in 1903, considered themselves “last responders,” “a policy of preserving danger” and “people who show up after the police line is up and after the camera. pushed away”, suggesting that the terrorist’s motive in planting the bomb was to “change people’s lifestyles.” [so] The bomb squad is there to make sure that victory doesn’t happen.”

As for the type of person best suited to train for the role at the FBI’s Dangerous Devices School in Huntsville, Alabama, Gerstein said: “They weren’t the kind of John Wayne on the team. They are quiet thinkers. They are suburban… They don’t run towards danger, and they don’t want such people on the team. “

Short documentary by Nato Bomb squad (2021) is also very insightful, introducing US Army EOD specialists deployed to Kosovo to safely clear or detonate explosives left over in the country’s lush hills and grasslands after the war of the late 1990s.

“There is no room for error in this career field, working with explosives. It’s your life or someone else’s,” commented handling expert Giovanni Pando, who we saw undergoing grueling physical training while wearing a pair of kevlar undergarments to ensure he We complete the task. He passed the audition.

Of the severe feeling of isolation when wearing that armor, Sergeant Benjamin Arold commented: “You put on the bomb suit. It’s just you and your thoughts. Just think about what you’re going to do next, what you’re trying to protect around you.”

On the other hand, the short emphasizes the importance of camaraderie and camaraderie between the teams, something that is also captured nicely in Activation Pointsand the need for hobbies that keep you from having to worry about work in your spare time, be it amateur radio, Star Wars Lego or hip hop dance.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/trigger-point-vicky-mcclure-realism-b2006633.html Trigger Points: What is it really like to be on the bomb squad?

Tom Vazquez

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