Sunday, July 20, 2003

Visitors will be a blast, seniors say

FBI to hold bomb training at Winton Woods facility

By Andrea Uhde
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Starting Monday, the 77 senior citizens who live in Mercy Community at Winton Woods will be in the midst of explosives and heavily suited bomb technicians.

The FBI will be using some of the 100 acres of land near the apartment building to do its annual training exercise, which will end Friday. Members of federal, state and local agencies that deal with bombs and first response will be participating in classroom and outdoor exercises to get certified to work another year.

It will be the first time in several years the training has been in Cincinnati, said James Turgal, a supervisory special agent and chief division council for the Cincinnati FBI.

Bring on the bombs, the seniors say. "Everybody's excited to see it," said Mary Berding, 64, who lives at Mercy Community at Winton Woods. "We always have things to do here, but this is something out of the ordinary."

She's dubbed the visit from the agencies as "our great experience."

Thursday morning, the seniors will amuse themselves with the dogs the officers are utilizing in some training exercises. Berding plans to have her picture taken with one.

The Cincinnati Division of the FBI, which is hosting the weeklong regional hazardous device technicians training course, will hold courses to teach the newest techniques and technology, Turgal said. He refused to go into specifics, and said he was unsure how many people will be attending the training courses.

Turgal said they chose Mercy Community at Winton Woods because of all the open space. Mercy Community, once the St. Francis Seminary, has 73 apartments for adults age 62 and up. The building, at 10290 Mill Road, sits on about 100 acres, and the agencies will be on the edge of the land.

The Cincinnati FBI notified the Winton Woods community of the upcoming events with flyers and personal visits, Turgal said. But people won't experience many disruptions, he said. "They may hear a small boom or something like that."

As expected with bomb squad training, small amounts of explosives will be tested, but it's all safe, Turgal said. "It's all very controlled - we have safety officers," Turgal said. "We take safety very seriously."


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