They have been 21 months of education and training, subjected to all kinds of self-control tests and assessment of all kinds of risks, more than 300 candidates, maximum stress and nerves of steel. A kind of Big Brother in the middle of a pandemic, with 14 finalists of which six remained. who will soon join the group. Inspector Ana SE, 42, is the only woman who has managed to access the latest promotion of technicians specializing in deactivation of explosive and nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical devices (Tedax-NRBQ), the elite bomb squad unit of the National Police, with 320 members posted throughout Spain. Of the total, only 14 are women, the first of whom took office in 1990. The Tedax have disabled more than 7,000 actual artifacts since 1975.
It has been 1,550 hours of Physics, chemistry, electronics, biology, radiology, telecommunications or meteorology. The new members of the Tedax prepare thoroughly in Madrid and then in Linares (Jaén), where they do the practices: exercises, drills or real practices. Ana SE has a degree in Biology, with a specialty in genetics, and has already passed through the Citizen Security police units, through cells, through the Scientific Police in the specialty of DNA when she has already approved for an inspector, but this is something else: ” Only you are here, you have to solve the problem by yourself, there is no one else and you go blind because you never know what you are going to find ”, he describes from his position in Seville. He is waiting to join his new destination after months preparing away from home, marked by the practices of “handling of material, circuitry and electricity, tactical care in combat, collection of biological samples, destruction of ammunition and demining”, he lists.
“Disciplined”, “responsible”, “persevering” from birth, Ana SE assures that terrorists learn very quickly. “Before they were almost always bomb attacks, now they prepare us for nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical (CBRN), that’s where the emphasis is being placed and that is what interests me the most,” he says. “Our only objective is to neutralize the artifact, eradicate the problem,” he says.
The TEDAX-CBRN, attached to the General Information Commission (CGI), constitute the unit that acts in the presence and detection of alleged explosive and incendiary devices and all kinds of CBRN agents. They also exercise their functions in the collection, transport, analysis and investigation of the mechanisms, elements and remains of these artifacts. The unit is deployed throughout Spain, with a Central Unit and 28 peripheral groups. Inspector Ana will be the head of one of those groups, “made up of between 10 and 15 agents depending on the site,” she explains.
In its 46-year history, Tedax-NRBQ have responded to more than 400,000 incidents. In the last five years, they have intervened in the presence of 770 military devices throughout Spain; 119, of them during 2021.
“They train us to assess all risks, possible and impossible, and to work safely, applying the method and with a cool head,” insists Ana, who remembers that, although they are alone in making decisions, they work for groups of two. But, in her understanding and with her experience, the inspector considers that there is no greater risk deactivating a bomb than being in a zeta (a Citizen Security unit), “you can also find anything on the street,” he says.
Since its creation, a total of 15 Tedax of the National Police have died directly in an action before an explosive device. Others, without losing their lives, suffered injuries of varying degrees. The first death was recorded in La Laguna (Tenerife) in 1978, while the last fatal event occurred in Madrid in 1991: three specialists died deactivating an artifact. “You can also find anything on the street,” he says. It is a dangerous fate: 15 of its members have died in the line of duty since 1978 when the devices they were trying to disable exploded.
None of this seems to be present in the conversation with the inspector who, to the question of “what was the hardest part of the preparation process?”, Replied: “Having found out afterwards about all the misfortunes caused by the pandemic that hid from me my family until I came back from training. For that I was not prepared.