WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo --
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic there is a team on Whiteman Air Force Base with an explosive mission that doesn’t just stop.
The 509th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team continues to train and is ready to respond to emergencies throughout the Midwestern United States, with slight modifications to maintain mission readiness.
“We maintain a standby response team that comes into work every day like normal,” said Master Sgt. Michael Vellejo, 509th CES EOD section chief of operations and training. “We also maintain multiple on-call response teams. We rotate these teams weekly to minimize the number of people in our building at any given time."
According to Vellejo, the team is following guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by sanitizing their workspaces every day and maintaining social distancing as much as possible.
“Regardless of the pandemic, the U.S. Global Strike mission needs to continue,” said Vellejo. “We're here to support that mission and respond to any explosive hazards wherever they may appear, on or off base.”
The EOD team contributes to the Global Strike mission by supporting and responding to Whiteman’s strategic assets in the event of a crisis or complication.
When teams are not actively responding to an emergency, Vellejo says the EOD team is constantly training and sharpening their skills.
“We have nine different mission sets that we have to maintain proficiency in,” said Senior Airman Dawson Hindman, 509th CES EOD team member. “Every month, we focus our training towards one of those nine mission sets.”
The nine mission sets include aerospace systems, counter-improvised explosive devices, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear response, unexploded ordnance, operational range clearance, defense support of civil authorities, regular warfare and presidential support.
Hindman said EOD Airmen always train as if it is a real-world response and prepare for the worst-case scenario.
“Today we practiced responding to a chemical round,” said Hindman. “We cleaned off the round and packaged it up in a safe manner, so that we can ship it off and dispose of it.”
Hindman said that whether EOD teams are responding to real-world calls or training, they are always ready to take on any challenge presented to their team.
“Nothing has changed in our mindset. We are still one hundred percent mission capable,” said Vellejo. “Our EOD technicians are ready to respond at a moment's notice to ensure the safety of our Airmen and local populace is not compromised.”
No matter what, the 509th CES EOD is prepared. In the face of a global health pandemic EOD Airmen continue to operate, while taking extra precautions in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19. This ensures the safety of base residents and its surrounding community is not compromised and that the mission continues at full capacity.