CHDS Master’s Student Honored for CISA Bomb Training Efforts

A Center for Homeland Defense and Security Master’s Program student is being recognized for his work in training hundreds of people in bombing prevention awareness and preparedness, the first time an individual has been so honored.

Diogenes Ayala teaching storm preparedness at the EMA Academy for Kids

In February 2024, Diogenes Ayala (MA cohort 2301/2302), the Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency in Madison County, IA, was recognized by officials from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Office of Bombing Prevention (OBP) with the Infrastructure Security Partnership Award for delivering 47 classes and training 662 responders and others on Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) curriculum as a member of the Empowered Trainer Program (ETP).

The number of classes that Ayala has taught far surpasses the next most productive trainer in the program. Previously, the award had only been given to organizations. Ayala said the award is proof that a single person can help keep their community safe and added that his CHDS educational experience and master’s thesis have had a direct influence on his work.

He said his CHDS thesis, “Resisting Hate Through Law: Policy Pathways to Dismantle Extremism,” focuses on exploring ways to disrupt domestic terror groups before they can attack by using existing tools previously employed by the government, including COINTELPRO, the Patriot Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). He noted that there have, unfortunately, been more domestic terror attacks in the U.S., including those using improvised explosives (IEDs), than international terror attacks.

Born and raised in New York City, Ayala said he vividly remembers the 1993 terror attack on the World Trade Center, as well as the Oklahoma City and Atlanta Olympics bombings in the 1990s, which he called a “huge influence on me.”

A U.S. Navy veteran, Ayala said he is long been fascinated by hate ideologies, which he said he had a hard time understanding because of his experience with people from a wide variety of backgrounds while he served in the Navy. When he left the Navy and started college, Ayala said his focus was on learning more about terrorism. After the 9/11 attacks, he started a career in disaster recovery.

EF-4 response and rescue team

When he started his current job in Madison County, Ayala said he wanted to learn more about homemade explosives because of the ease of buying products under the radar. He attended the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Domestic Preparedness free education courses to learn about explosives and mitigation, including Hazmat Tech School, explosives school in New Mexico, and the CISA Empowered Training Program. “Bringing this knowledge to first responders and the public is critical to disrupt attacks here in the United States,” he said.

Ayala said his CHDS education has also “given me the opportunity to enhance my learning with a rigorous education curriculum and professors with relevant experience in the field,” specifically noting the opportunity to learn with “a group of people from all over the nation with different perspectives and world-class experiences that are not found in textbooks.” He cited CHDS instructors David Brannan and Anders Strindberg for offering “different perspectives on why terrorist groups act out with violence as well as the current [domestic] political environment.” Ayala said, “This [CHDS] opportunity has helped me bring critical issues to my community.”

Last year, Ayala was named the 2022 Emergency Manager of the Year by the Iowa Emergency Management Association for his leadership during one of the worst tornadoes in the state’s history: an EF-4 tornado that devastated Madison County and killed six people. Ayala was lauded for performing at the “very highest levels of our profession during one of his county’s worst crises,” according to a nominating statement, and quickly becoming the “appropriate face of the incident response and [setting] the tone for his community’s recovery and healing when it was needed most.”

Ayala holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Criminal Justice from Simpson College in Indianola, IA, is a graduate of Texas A&M Infrastructure Protection Program, and has also completed the Executive Leadership Education at the University of Notre Dame.

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment | hissvora@nps.edu, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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