Bomb squads square off in ‘Robot Rodeo’


LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – Practicing disabling bombs, searching for explosives and dealing with suicide bombers is probably not what comes to mind when you think of rodeos.

But this week in Los Alamos, officers from around New Mexico, the country and the world are doing just that as part of the “Robot Rodeo.”

Not everyone is cut out for it. The pressure can burn your fuse fast.

“It does take a certain mentality to do this,” said Chris Ory, a member of the Los Alamos Hazardous Devices Team.

The job is bomb squad and this is the proving ground.

“We call it a Robot Rodeo.”

You won’t find any clowns or spurs here.

Rather, a competition, pitting robots and their operators in almost real life-or-death situations.

“These guys love it,” Ory said. “Every year they come out and they look forward to it.”

Now in its eighth year, this go-around of the Robot Rodeo features eight teams taking part in 10 events.

“I enjoy it when I give them a scenario and the light comes on and they understand what they’re trying to do and how they can improve their skills,” Ory said.

Another agency taking part is New Mexico State Police.

“It’s a precision thing,” Ory said of NMSP’s assignment, in which they disarm a dummy bomb. “They have to figure out which wires to cut.”

“The scenarios they put together here they put our training at a much higher level,” Sgt. Jose Salazar with State Police’s bomb squad.

It’s one of many reasons it’s growing in popularity.

The competition isn’t just for agencies here in New Mexico. There is one team from Colorado and one from the United Kingdom.

“It’s incredibly valuable,” Major Simon Jenkinson with British Army Defense Equipment and Support said.

“There are only a couple of nations which work in a way that’s comparable to us.

And while they come together to compete, at the end of the day it’s about learning and becoming better. A little laughter doesn’t hurt either.

“It’s a challenging task and for it to go successfully, it’s very rewarding,” Jenkinson said. “The explosions in the background are quite good fun as well.”

The top team will take home a trophy and bragging rights.

The competition runs through Thursday.

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