ROTC cadet interns attend forensics and biometrics hands-on exercise

Friday, November 01, 2013

Kevin Lothridge 
National Forensic Science 
Technology Center
London Du’Bois 
Internship Program Manager 

Biometric and forensic science experience and understanding is a capability that continues to grow in importance to today’s Army.

To help tomorrow’s soldiers, 12 Army ROTC cadets participated in the National Forensic Science Technology Center’s (NFSTC) 2013 Forensics and Biometrics Internship this summer.

NFSTC sponsors the program, now in its fifth year, which uses intensive, hands-on site exploitation exercises featuring scenarios derived from real battlefield experiences.

During the two-week program, cadets learn how forensic applications aid in intelligence gathering and homeland security efforts. The program culminates with realistic site exploitation exercises and a "debrief" to recap the cadets’ experiences and the skills they learned.

This year, cadets traveled to Largo, Fla., from universities across the country including the University of Minnesota, Penn State, Central Michigan University, Worcester Polytechnic, Missouri University of Science and Technology and North Dakota State, to name a few.

The program, coordinated by ROTC Program Manager London Du’Bois and held at the center’s facility in Largo, provided the senior ROTC cadets with a valuable and unique opportunity to exercise critical decision-making skills in a real-world scenario before they begin their military careers.

Skills include determining primary and secondary mission objectives and prioritizing actions under pressure.

Cadets participated in hand-on demonstrations designed to peak their interest in forensics, and also illustrate how forensic techniques can be applied to military operations including IED post-blast investigations, hostage situations, and intelligence gathering missions.

To provide a complete overview of forensic disciplines, the cadets explored evidence collection and documentation; crime scene photography; forensic chemistry; digital device triage and exploitation; biological screening and DNA analysis; explosives analysis and post-blast investigation; firearms handling; fingerprint processing and print collection from detainees or the deceased.

During the hands-on exercises that marked the culmination of the program, cadets worked in teams to perform real-world scenario-based site exploitation.

Teams used critical thinking skills and, guided by NFSTC’s forensic and site exploitation experts, made determinations on the probative value of evidence, managed detainees during search efforts and employed specific tactics for thoroughly exploiting a target site.

Successful completion of the exploitation exercise required cadets to use their newly acquired understanding of forensics and quick thinking to fully exploit the scene including identifying evidence that will further mission objectives, properly collecting evidence, documenting the scene, and making the deadline for extraction.

The program is designed to test each cadet’s leadership abilities, personal responsibility and ability to adhere to mission objectives.

Program instructor Garry Ashton, from Team Training Solutions in partnership with NFSTC, worked with each team during the final day’s exercises to help them determine how successfully they executed their mission including how well the evidence they collected aided in achieving their mission objectives.

"It’s incredible to see this group of young soldiers come in here with almost no understanding of forensic science, even less about how it’s used in military operations," Ashton said.

Adding, "But over the two weeks, it clicks for them. They see the relationship between the disciplines, how it all fits together and how it works to help gain actionable intelligence."

The cadet response to the program was overwhelmingly positive.

One cadet commented, "[It] was great to test my skills in everything I learned in the past week; was very cool to work with a team in a real-life scenario."

Another commented on the tool marks session, "[I] liked that we were broken into teams and worked together to figure out the different impressions. [It] really gave a good concept of how hard it is to figure out tool marks."

For the cadets, this program offers a unique experience that is not available in most college curricula and is an extension of ROTC training.

The way intelligence is gathered on the battlefield and around the world is changing as new technology becomes available. NFSTC’s internship provides cadets the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with forensic intelligence applications used right now throughout the armed forces and intelligence communities.

This experience may influence the path cadets choose to take in their military careers.

"[U.S. Army] Cadet Command has remained excited about the partnership developed with NFSTC. This specialized skill acquired during a cadet’s training definitely prepares them for success beyond the battlefield," Du’Bois said.

NFSTC hosts a photo gallery that captured cadets in action throughout the two-week course on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nfstc.