Test for the best: Full Spectrum EOD Warrior Challenge
By Airman 1st Class Taylor Phifer, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 30, 2018
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Sweat poured down their faces as they threw their body armor, helmets and gloves on top of their uniforms. The heat and humidity couldn’t distract them as they took their positions behind the weapons.
They laid motionless, waiting to pull the trigger. Then came the all clear. Loud, powerful booms from their machine guns filled the air. One by one the bullets came flying out from the barrels of the guns, flying through the air until they collided with the targets.
This was just one daunting task of the Full Spectrum Explosive Ordnance Disposal Warrior Challenge at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, May 22-24, 2018.
“We hosted six, three-person Air Force EOD teams from across the country to compete against one another for the title of Top EOD Team,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Workoff, the NCO in charge of EOD training assigned to the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base.
After the three grueling days, this year’s winning team was from McConnell AFB, Kansas. The team consistently scored well during the obstacle course, land navigation and weapons firing events.
Other participants included EOD teams from Moody AFB, Scott AFB, Joint Base San Antonio, Davis-Monthan AFB and Minot AFB.
“The purpose of this event was to evaluate teams on their full-spectrum capabilities,” Workoff said. “Most training events focus primarily on counter-IED operations, but this event encompassed multiple mission areas. As Air Force EOD technicians, we are expected to be proficient in 10 core mission areas and this challenge covered many of those.”
The competition began with a timed obstacle course, followed by a land navigation challenge.
On the second day, teams were strapping on their body armor for the heavy weapons firing and buried ordnance location and attack tasks. The EOD teams were evaluated well into the night, as they used flashlights and night-vision devices to guide their way.
The challenge culminated in a four-event round robin that encompassed counter-improvised explosive devices, chemical operations, unexploded ordnance cache with tactical combat casualty care, homemade explosive lab processing and evidence collection.
The tasks EOD performs take a lot of patience and precision, Workoff said, adding that one wrong decision could cost someone’s life. The EOD Warrior Challenge forced the Airmen to utilize many of their core mission areas, such as counter-IED, UXO recovery, countering weapons of mass destruction, operational range clearance and irregular warfare. Additionally, Airmen had the added pressure of competing against other teams.
“This event was a true test of the teams’ endurance and stamina,” Workoff said. “It was designed to push them to a point of both mental and physical exhaustion, while still testing their ability to operate at a high tempo. It truly gauged their technical proficiency and capabilities that are directly in line with the current National Defense Strategy.”
EOD technicians deploy when the mission needs them. Challenges likes this help to keep them sharp and ready at a moment’s notice.
“I know that this training event will have lasting strategic level effects that were generated at the tactical level,” Workoff said. “The fact that we were able to leverage local training venues within our joint force exemplifies the innovation necessary to enact change at the speed necessary to enhance our enterprise capabilities. My hope is that events like this will become the model for how our enterprise continues to refine and develop its future, full-spectrum capabilities.”