Interview with George McKerrow (MAC 7) and Bénédicte Laferrère (IB Consultancy)

Can you introduce yourself and your company?

George: My name is George J. Mckerrow and I am the Director of International Sales & Training Coordinator for MAC 7 & our partner company, Inert Products LLC. I started up MAC 7 in early 2016, and our focus was to provide training and equipment for both Law Enforcement and the Military on IED, EOD, Demining, CBRNE, High Risk Search and Counter Terrorism. MAC 7 was acquired later that year by Inert Products LLC. Inert Products, founded in 2011, has consistently been the world’s largest supplier of replica IED / EOD training aids. This partnership gave MAC 7 access to an incredible array of devices that increased the immersion and relevancy of MAC 7’s training courses. Both companies are headquarted in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and are registered with the US State Department to provide licensed export of defense articles.

Bénédicte: My name is Bénédicte Laferrère and I have been working for IB Consultancy and the CBRNe Society, who co-organize the NCT event series, since 2019 as a consultant. The NCT events started back in 2012 with the purpose of giving stakeholders in the field of CBRNe, C-IED, EOD and demining a platform to exchange knowledge on current and future threats. Since then, we have developed an impressive network around the world that allows us to work on a wide variety of projects such as business and research consultancy.

What is the history and experience of MAC 7 and IB Consultancy in CBRNe, EOD and C-IED Trainings? When did the cooperation between MAC 7 and IB Consultancy start?

G: I started working with IB Consultancy back in November 2017 when IBC organized a series of defense product demonstrations throughout southeast Asia. MAC 7 and Inert Products participated in these demonstrations alongside ADS Inc and Field Forensics. During the trip we visited the Philippines, Vietnam & Indonesia to meet with potential clients and establish partnerships with local companies who might wish to market our products for us. IBC was able to get our products in front of high-level government officials, and I was extremely impressed with how IBC organized the entire trip. I have seen the value of us continuing our work with them in the CBRNe field and am proud of the opportunities they have provided us with.

B: Since 2017, MAC 7 and IBC have been working hand in hand on numerous projects, and especially the organization of trainings around the world. While MAC 7 brings a vast amount of knowledge on EOD, C-IED and demining, IBC complements it with a great network of military and civil first responders and an extensive experience in the organization of events worldwide. This results in a highly successful cooperation between the two organizations.

What are the NCT PRO Trainings? How many editions of NCT PRO Trainings already took place? How many teams already participated in your trainings?

B: The NCT PRO Trainings’ concept was launched in 2018 by IB Consultancy and the CBRNe Society. Based on our CBRNe, EOD, C-IED and demining knowledge, we decided to take a step further into the provision of a platform for operators to learn and develop their capabilities in the field. With CBRN and explosive threats constantly evolving, it is important for teams to exchange and learn from one another. The idea is to pair teams from different countries or states and train them on a common mission, using equipment currently on the market. Since its launch, NCT PRO has had 5 editions, with no less than 38 different teams taking part in at least one training event. What is the goal of the NCT PRO Trainings that you both contribute to organize?

G: The goal of the NCT PRO Trainings is to provide a platform where teams are given realistic training scenarios so that they can put into practice their procedures in order to tackle a CBRNE mission. Vendors can sponsor the training lanes where they can showcase their products and allow the teams to get hands on experience working with their equipment. This is a great opportunity that allows vendors to get instant feedback from the “end user” and this can then lead to ideas for future development. The vendors also can get great marketing photos and video footage showing operators using the equipment. The team operators also benefit by being able to take the equipment out “for a test drive” before they consider buying. They also get to see and hear of new technologies that are being developed for them to use. B: The NCT PRO Trainings are also a great platform for teams to learn from one another and exchange on best practices. As CBRNe and explosive threats constantly grow, we think it is important for operators to be able to work together, whether they come from different units or even different countries. This is what we try to do during NCT PRO Trainings: We aim for raising awareness on the importance of interoperability and allow teams to take the first step in that direction.

Could you describe and talk about one or two specific scenarios that you especially liked to build up and observe as a trainer?

G: I like to build up my scenarios so that they test the commanders on task scene management and the field operators on developing their tactics, techniques, and procedures. I like to give them a training scenario and then give them time to plan and back brief me on how they are going to conduct the mission. I also like to sit in on the briefing that they give their team so that I get to hear what their threat assessment is and what the individual detailed tasks are that are being handed out. It is great when we can incorporate a scenario which has multiple threats involved and I can see both military and police teams working together to complete the mission. It is also great when we see teams from different countries working together and sharing their knowledge and experience with each other. What is the most challenging aspect when organizing such scenarios? And what is the most rewarding?

G: Sometimes my biggest challenge is making a device that they will find challenging to deal with and it will take them out of their normal training “comfort zone”. It is great when we can conduct our training in places like Belgium, Austria or the Philippines where we have had great training facilities like subway systems, aircraft and buildings which enhance the training experience. I would always encourage vendors to ensure that they turn up with all their equipment fully charged and ready to be put through some rigorous testing. Which projects are you currently working on and developing for 2021?

B: We have a very exciting calendar of events for next year with the usual NCT PRO Trainings planned in the USA, Europe and South America, as well as a dedicated training event for the Dutch Special Forces. However, our biggest novelty is the launch of our first NCT PRO Challenge in Cambodia next year. The event will take place on March 22-26 at the Training School for Multinational Peacekeeping Forces and is planned to host national, regional and international teams for five days of trainings. NCT PRO Challenge will end with an exciting friendly competition fostering team building and networking for operators and sponsors. G: NCT PRO Challenge is something that I am looking forward to working on in 2021. NCT PRO Challenge is going to be heavily focused on the EOD Community for IED, EOD, Demining and a little bit of CBRNE. MAC 7 will be the “training partner” working with IBC to organize and run all the training portion of the event whilst IBC will be running the tradeshow and networking portion of the event. I think this is the future of how interaction should be between end users and vendors in our industry.

Which projects are you currently working on and developing for 2021? B: We have a very exciting calendar of events for next year with the usual NCT PRO Trainings planned in the USA, Europe and South America, as well as a dedicated training event for the Dutch Special Forces. However, our biggest novelty is the launch of our first NCT PRO Challenge in Cambodia next year. The event will take place on March 22-26 at the Training School for Multinational Peacekeeping Forces and is planned to host national, regional and international teams for five days of trainings. NCT PRO Challenge will end with an exciting friendly competition fostering team building and networking for operators and sponsors. G: NCT PRO Challenge is something that I am looking forward to working on in 2021. NCT PRO Challenge is going to be heavily focused on the EOD Community for IED, EOD, Demining and a little bit of CBRNE. MAC 7 will be the “training partner” working with IBC to organize and run all the training portion of the event whilst IBC will be running the tradeshow and networking portion of the event. I think this is the future of how interaction should be between end users and vendors in our industry.

Any final comment or thought?

G: We hope that this is going to be a great partnership for both MAC 7 & IBC which will allow for great training where both vendors and end users get to benefit from the event. B: I think we have a great concept that has received a lot of praises from companies and teams, and I cannot wait to take part in our first NCT PRO Challenge. The partnership between IBC and MAC 7 has been very successful and promises a great event full of learning possibilities.

George McKerrow enlisted into the British Army in 1984 and attended training to be a Paratrooper, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer and a High-Risk Search Advisor. He attended extensive training at the UK Defense Explosive Ordnance Disposal School (DEODS) and the UK National Search Academy. George has been deployed operationally on EOD and HRS missions in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan & Iraq. He was instrumental in the development and writing for the new UK Counter Terrorism Search pamphlet. George has been actively involved in training specialist units from the UK Police Force (SO13) and the US Secret Service. George is a certified counter terrorism practitioner who continues to conduct training, develop equipment, organize international training events. He has been a guest speaker at numerous global counter terrorism conferences and workshops all around and has conducted training in US, Canada, UK, SE Asia, Europe & the Middle East.

Benedicte is a consultant at IB Consultancy where she has been working since 2019. After a Bachelor in Law and a Master's Degree in Political Science, with a specialization in International Relations, Security and Defense, Benedicte started her career in Security and Defense Policy at the European Parliament. She followed a military training within the French Army in 2017, where her interest in CBRNe, C-IED, EOD and demining began, leading her towards a career in the field.