PACAF EOD ignites perfect training

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Leon Redfern
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

"Initial Success or Total Failure."

That is the motto all Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel remember when clocking in to a job that requires nothing less than perfection.

The 35th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) EOD flight, recently hosted a Field Training Exercise (FTX) to hone their skills in responding to wartime improvised explosive devices, unexploded ordnance, chemical weapons and tactical combat casualty care operations at Draughon Range near Misawa Air Base, Japan, July 19-21, 2022.

Despite this being the first FTX for Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), EOD technicians across the Department of Defense (DoD) have always trained rigorously to accomplish their mission. Since 1941, the mission of EOD technicians has been clearing hazards by locating, identifying and neutralizing explosive devices to retain the safety of base personnel and local civilians, especially during wartime contingencies.

This exercise allowed Misawa to invite multiple Air Force and Marine EOD units across PACAF to take part in the cumulative training operation.

“Since COVID-19 restrictions have eased, we were able to get teams and instructors from Kadena Air Base, Andersen Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to participate in this exercise,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Diana Rogers, 35th CES EOD Flight superintendent. “The interoperability of this exercise allows multiple flights and services across the DoD to mentor, knowledge and share their experiences, leading to better equipped personnel for future real-world scenarios.”

The exercise was conducted entirely on Draughon Range, a premiere air-to-ground training site, to simulate living and performing EOD duties within austere locations.

“Most of the time we train, it has to be simulated explosions or procedures on ordnance, but on range we’re afforded the opportunity to go through scenarios or problems with real, live explosives and see if we did the procedure correctly and safely,” said Senior Airman Donald Greico, EOD Flight technician. “The range is also vast; the terrain can simulate any location, whether it's grass, dirt, sand or gravel. This allows us to run many different scenarios, helping us become well-rounded EOD technicians.”

The three-day exercise consisted of day and night, hands-on field training, using real combat scenarios, and explosive detonations to mimic the effects of live ordnance to provide the most realistic training possible.

“Injecting multiple different training scenarios, like an unexpected bomb vest strapped onto a spouse and dropped into camp, allows us to instill some chaos into the situations, making the exercise feel less simulated or controlled and more unpredictable to the participants,” Rogers said. “That enables us to test the participants' ability to communicate and remain calm under pressure, which is a big component of our job.”

Rogers explained that training for EOD technicians is a much needed investment to create and maintain a more superior defense force across the DoD.

“I like to compare personnel in our career, to homeowners insurance,” said Rogers. “You don't want to have to use it, but when you do, you want it to be a good one.”

These elaborate exercises or training events are significant for all EOD technicians. They provide personnel the ability to respond to any call or situation accurately, safely and effectively, making sure they have the highest possible chance to defuse the situation and get everyone home safely.

“When I tell people who aren't in our career field that we train every day, they usually don't understand and assume we just don't do our job,” Rogers said, “but the reality is you don't want us to do our job every day, because when I show up with an EOD team most people are in a bad or scary situation and definitely want good technicians. So, investing in one by constantly training and preparing our personnel for those scenarios is crucial to get the best protection.”

Rogers expressed her gratitude towards the overall performance and planning involved, hoping more units across PACAF will participate in this annual exercise in the future.

“I'm really proud of my team for all the hard work they put into this,” Rogers said. “It was a heavy lift coordinating all of this and they clearly did a great job in providing quality training not only for our flight members but other units as well. I consider myself really lucky; I don't know how I got such a great team here in Misawa.”