No place like Dover AFB EOD

  • Published
  • By Roland Balik
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 436th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight has a unique mission set compared to other U.S. Air Force EOD flights.

Dover AFB’s location, near major metropolitan areas such as Baltimore, Maryland, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York City, New York, and Washington, D.C., enables the EOD flight to respond to many high-profile mission support requests.

“I was actually amazed when I got here,” said Capt. Austin LeMasters, 436th CES flight commander. “The sheer amount of experience and different kinds of mission sets that this flight particularly touches…is really cool.”

EOD mission areas consist of Aerospace Systems/Vehicles and Conventional Munitions, Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED), Counter-Weapons of Mass Destruction (C-WMD), Nuclear Weapons Response, Unexploded Ordnance Recovery (UXO recovery), Operational Range Clearance, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), Irregular Warfare, and Very Important Persons Protective Support (VIPPSA).

“Due to Dover’s proximity to the National Capital Region and the President’s two residences in the state, Dover EOD conducts a significant share of Secret Service missions,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kyle Nason, 436th CES EOD flight superintendent. “Each mission requires two EOD technicians and is anywhere from two days to multiple weeks in length.”

Conducting these missions ensures the safety of key political leaders as well as the general public. Of the average annual 55 missions, all are considered high-profile missions.

“These missions are ‘find or function’ for the President, Vice President, and other dignitaries and can include major events like the United Nations General Assembly, speeches, meetings, etc.,” said LeMasters.

The EOD team also supports the Department of Defense’s only port mortuary: Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations.

“Dover [AFB] EOD Airmen ensure that remains returning from contingency operations and training mishaps are clear of explosive hazards that may present a threat to the safety of the medical examiner and mortuary personnel and the facility,” said Nason. “This is a solemn mission that gives the unit great pride to be a part of the process in getting our folks back to their loved ones.”

Additionally, the flight provides support for chemical munitions response.

When initially responding to calls involving chemical munitions, EOD defers the handling and disposition of those types of munitions to the U.S. Army’s 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Command.

“Dover EOD is the only Air Force unit that is regularly responding to actual chemical munitions," said Nason. “The chemical mission is unique because you have all the same concerns of conventional unexploded ordnance as well as the added concern of exposure to potentially deadly chemical agents, environmental contamination, and disposition of the munition.”

Frequently, EOD personnel work closely with the U.S. Secret Service to search for anything or anyone attempting to cause harm.

“We put a lot of time towards training and preparation because complacency can be fatal or extremely damaging to personnel or property,” said LeMasters. “This goes for every mission set that EOD is responsible for. EOD’s unofficial Motto is: ‘Initial Success or Total Failure.’”

With such a robust, high-profile mission set comes added risks. However, this risk is something that the EOD Airmen take in stride.

“We have several young Airmen that have recently arrived at Dover,” said Nason. “These are Airmen that chose to serve as EOD technicians, as it’s a voluntary career field. This is significant because the realities of the EOD mission are well known post global war on terror. With the threat of peer conflict, we have several Airmen that have accepted the personal risk, and joined EOD for the betterment of their country.”