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NEWS | March 27, 2017

Playing with fire: EOD technicians temper response skills

By Senior Airman Miles Wilson 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

This is one scenario that members of the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Flight faced during exercise “Vigilant Walrus,” a four-day exercise that consisted of various scenarios that tested EOD members’ skill, knowledge and endurance.

Two “fireball” charges go off behind a U.S. flag being held by F6A bomb disposal robots at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, March 17, 2017. The 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Flight set off several rounds of explosives to mark the grand opening of their new EOD range at Al Udeid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)
Two “fireball” charges go off behind a U.S. flag being held by F6A bomb disposal robots at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, March 17, 2017. The 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Flight set off several rounds of explosives to mark the grand opening of their new EOD range at Al Udeid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)
Two “fireball” charges go off behind a U.S. flag being held by F6A bomb disposal robots at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, March 17, 2017. The 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Flight set off several rounds of explosives to mark the grand opening of their new EOD range at Al Udeid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)
Playing with fire: EOD technicians temper response skills
Two “fireball” charges go off behind a U.S. flag being held by F6A bomb disposal robots at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, March 17, 2017. The 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Flight set off several rounds of explosives to mark the grand opening of their new EOD range at Al Udeid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)
Photo By: Senior Airman Miles Wilson
VIRIN: 170317-F-NN480-152
The training was conducted to help provide the EOD technicians with the threat analysis and critical thinking skills that will be required in order to safely and effectively handle any threats that they may face, particularly if they forward deploy. Aside from the mental training aspect, the exercise also forced the Airmen to operate and work with limited resources and limited rest, mirroring situations that they would find in a forward-deployed environment.

“The exercises that we throw at our teams are derived from intelligence reports from EOD teams in the field,” said Capt. Daniel Blomberg, 379th ECES EOD Flight commander. “They are compounded problems that we have to combat with limited personnel and limited resources.”

The EOD technicians were forced to work out of mine resistant ambush protected all-terrain vehicles and use limited gear, with little to no support from other agencies during the exercise. During night operations, the crews were not allowed to use white light in order to make the scenarios more challenging and realistic.

“The scenarios involved a breach in the perimeter, and when that happens and you have white light, you become a target,” said Blomberg. “Not using white light forces the team to learn to operate using night vision goggles and in vehicles that are equipped to help them see at night, and makes a scenario completely different than during the day.”

Blomberg explained that NVG’s and the cameras on robots and M-ATV’s drastically altered depth perception and peripheral views, as well as provided very limited lines of sight. Because of these complications, a simple scenario during the day becomes increasingly complex at night.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Pifer, left, and Staff Sgt. Brent Points, both explosive ordnance disposal technicians with the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight, move an F6A bomb disposal robot at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, March 17, 2017. Both Brent and Pifer deployed from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, along with two other EOD technicians. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Pifer, left, and Staff Sgt. Brent Points, both explosive ordnance disposal technicians with the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight, move an F6A bomb disposal robot at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, March 17, 2017. Both Brent and Pifer deployed from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, along with two other EOD technicians. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Pifer, left, and Staff Sgt. Brent Points, both explosive ordnance disposal technicians with the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight, move an F6A bomb disposal robot at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, March 17, 2017. Both Brent and Pifer deployed from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, along with two other EOD technicians. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)
Playing with fire: EOD technicians temper response skills
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Pifer, left, and Staff Sgt. Brent Points, both explosive ordnance disposal technicians with the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight, move an F6A bomb disposal robot at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, March 17, 2017. Both Brent and Pifer deployed from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, along with two other EOD technicians. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)
Photo By: Senior Airman Miles Wilson
VIRIN: 170317-F-NN480-004
“These are perishable skills,” said Blomberg. “If you don’t practice operating at night, you’re going to be in for a bad time.”

 Aside from utilizing various tools, equipment and vehicles to complete their training, the EOD technicians were able to practice using live explosives thanks to a brand new EOD range, which saw its first use on Feb. 10, 2017. The EOD technicians previously did not have a range, which seriously inhibited their capability to train. During Vigilant Walrus, the EOD technicians utilized the new range as a staging point for scenarios, as well as a location for disposing munitions and explosives.

“The range allows us to train with almost all of our explosives and explosive tools in a safe and controlled environment,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Metts, an EOD technician with the 379th ECES EOD Flight. “The range allows us to continue to strengthen our technical skills by utilizing our demolition explosives, and also acts as an emergency disposal location in the event of any improvised explosive ordnance or damaged munitions identified by munitions personnel.”

During Vigilant Walrus, the EOD personnel were able to accomplish a variety of training ranging from night vision operations to dealing with airfield bombings. Over the four days, the technicians were constantly on their toes and never knew when the next call would occur, but their endurance and perseverance paid off in the end.

“The exercise gave the [EOD technicians] the training, knowledge and experience that, if a call occurred along the lines of what they saw, would allow them to respond much faster,” said Blomberg. “We would be ready to go and react in probably a quarter of the time that would have taken prior to the exercise.”