Explosive combinations fuel the flames of EOD

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
There are different types of improvised explosive devices capable of causing massive damage at any given time, whether overseas or at home. The solution to this problem: a team full of dedicated service members at Whiteman.

"When a bomb is dropped, we will go out to where ever it is and check to see if it's safe," said Staff Sgt. Donald Ross, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team member. "Ninety percent of the time, a dropped bomb isn't going to explode because they are made to freefall for a determined amount of feet before arming. It is still our job to ensure the scene is safe in the event it does occur for the good of the base populace."

Another trait associated with the EOD team is inspecting the rounds of the A-10 Thunderbolt II to ensure they are usable.

If the rounds are damaged, the team leader can decide whether to dispose of them or make them safe.

Occasionally, while the A-10 gun loader is feeding rounds to the A-10, rounds can get damaged and loose powder is left on the ground and equipment as a result. Since the powder is explosive, the EOD team must neutralize it as quickly as possible.

In addition to this, the EOD team is on stand-by 24/7 watching out for suspicious packages, bomb threats and explosive material around the base. While required to respond in situations involving military ordnance, the team may also respond to other EOD-type emergencies off-base when contacted by civil authorities, according to Ross.

"If the police department doesn't have a bomb squad of their own, they will request us when there are explosives off-base," Ross said. "If we are the closest unit and the wing commander approves, we will handle any explosive item found off base. For instance, there was a case involving a suspicious package in a Wal-Mart parking lot behind residential homes in Marshall and the closest bomb squad was in Jefferson City, Mo. The Marshall civil authorities called the command post here and they forwarded the message to EOD. Since we were the closest and the commander gave us approval, we went to go take care of it."

When stateside, EOD teams work in pairs or more regardless of the circumstance consisting of one team leader and one or more team members. When deployed, there is a group of at least three or more people. The team leader's role is to determine the situation and the solution.

The team member's role is known as the "sounding board" for the team leader. They give the team leader support and various ideas on how deal with the situation, according to Tech Sgt. Glenn Mitchell, 509th CES EOD team leader.

"While the team leader communicates with the on-scene commander, I'm preparing the support equipment while the leader figures out the problem," Mitchell said. "This includes the F6A robot, RTR-4 X-ray and any equipment vital to getting the job done."

Working in pairs is important when dealing with explosives because it eliminates the possibility of tunnel vision and irrational decision-making.

"When the team leader puts on the bomb suit, it's heavy and it can get very hot, causing him to lose his focus," Ross said. "He could also go down to the bomb do something wrong that may trigger it to go off. It's important for someone else to be present because they can help him concentrate and give him sound judgment."

The team leader normally discusses his plans with the team members before he deals with the bomb. If he goes to the bomb and performs procedures contradicting his plans, the team members are allowed to question him.

The EOD career field has seven different equipment packages. These packages contain specialized tools used to locate and render safe military ordnance/explosive. These items must be ready at all times, according to Mitchell.

Sound judgment and teamwork are vital aspects within the EOD team mission. The EOD team camaraderie ensures the mission is done safely.

"Camaraderie is something we influence in every aspect of the EOD mission," Ross said. "Every time we deal with explosives, ordnance and bombs; we have each other's backs. Working together to ensure everyone is safe and the mission gets completed is the ultimate goals."