Defusing the situation: In training
Staff Sgt. Sue Bostic, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, operates an F6 robot during a training exercise March 20, 2012, at the EOD range on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Bostic operated the robot from a truck at a safe distance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jacob Morgan)
by Senior Airman Jacob Morgan
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
4/10/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- From the Delmarva Peninsula to the mountains of Afghanistan to a park in Botswana, the footsteps of Team Dover's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team can be found on almost every continent.
Whether they are traveling with the President of the United States, disposing of antique and possibly deadly military munitions recovered from the ocean, or rendering roadside bombs safe in contingency operations overseas, the men and women of Team Dover EOD keep motivated by one thought - they get rid of something that could take a life.
This motivation pushes them to accomplish nine percent of the Air Force EOD mission while comprising less than two percent of the manpower - making Team Dover's EOD a force multiplier with a global reach.
Their exploits will be examined in 'Defusing the situation,' - a series about the training, tactics and trials of one of the Air Force's riskiest jobs.
On an EOD range at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., there is a mile between him and the ordnance - the test starts. He has 60 minutes to defuse a bomb and a mile to run to get there. As he approaches the ordnance, he has to 'expose' himself to possible danger; he searches his memory to describe the type of ordnance and then calls out a list of 10 safety precautions specific to this bomb. Once he knows his plan and measures the specifications of the ordnance, he runs a mile back to the safety area.
Normally, the test is difficult with only one look at the ordnance. However, his test just took a turn for the worst. With the instructor breathing down his neck, questioning every move he makes, he decides he needs to take a second look. With mounting stress and fatigue, he sprints the mile back, keeping a close eye on his watch, his mind running through a checklist for this ordnance. A second look at the bomb gives him the answer he needs -- a quick look at his watch reveals only 25 minutes left. He runs back to the safety area again, figures out the steps to make the ordnance safe and dispose of it. Then, he travels back to the ordnance and executes his plan.
While all Airman have experienced some sort of technical training designed to test the trainees wit, stress levels and application of knowledge; EOD training consistently takes these tests to a different level.
As members graduate from the EOD technical school at Eglin AFB and transition to Team Dover's EOD team, the training does not end.
"Training builds trust," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Junk, an EOD craftsman with the 436th CES. "Trust is the basis for the strong brotherhood of an EOD flight. I have to trust that my Airman, who I have trained, will not get myself or the team blown up in an actual operation. That reality is enough to stress the importance of training."
With trust being the basic building block for an EOD team, members must check their ego at the door and arrive every day ready to learn. While monthly demolition, roadside bomb response, and nuclear mishap training are all examples of Air Force training requirements - the training goes much more in-depth.
Five days a week, EOD is exercising as a team as the sun rises. Two of those five days are entirely devoted to training, which the flight accomplishes until the sun sets.
"We spend a lot of time together, we observe each other's techniques, and we learn," said Junk. "You have to prove yourself every day in this career field, especially in training."
A day of proving themselves starts with an early wake-up and an exercise training session. After physical training, they head to work and read the board to find out who is on-call in case of an emergency, and what the schedule for the day is. Typically, the rest of the day consists of classroom training and more often than not, a trip to the range for hands-on training.
In the classroom, they train on domestic and foreign munitions and procedures to handle them. Out on the range, they practice handling chemical ordnance, nuclear ordnance and many other scenarios.
Some missions EOD covers at Dover AFB are unique to this base, such as providing support to the mortuary and responding to munitions discovered in the ocean. The success of these missions is dependent on experienced NCOs providing the needed hands on training for their Airmen.
"The schoolhouse gives each member a basic understanding of everything in our career field," said Junk. "That level of experience needs to be expanded once they arrive at Dover AFB, presenting a real challenge. Airmen earn their place in the unit by constantly honing their skills and proving themselves to be knowledgeable and proficient during training scenarios. Being able to successfully accomplish this will determine if they are going to be successful in our career field."
One of these mission sets is conventional military munitions disposal, where EOD members cover the entire Delmarva Peninsula responding to old military munitions that have been uncovered.
Next in the series, 'Defusing the situation", the team will execute a conventional military munitions response.