Explosive ordnance disposal teams from across the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility participated in a weeklong joint field training exercise recently at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
The 386th Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight coordinated and hosted the joint training operation that brought together EOD teams from each of the four service branches, deployed to five different countries in the AOR.
“In a real world deployment, it’s normal for EOD teams to support units from other branches and training together improves cross service communication and familiarization and sharing of TTPs,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Vallejo, a site leader and planner for the exercise from the 386th EOD flight. “We had nine teams from eight different units deployed to a forward operating base, working in three AOR’s on realistic scenarios based on current contingencies.”
The purpose of the exercise was to provide realistic joint service EOD training to new team leaders and team leaders in training, allow for the exchange of tactics, techniques and procedures – known as TTPs – between service branches, and share training best practices throughout the AOR.
For the first few days, each team worked on separate problems while cross talking and being aware of the other teams working in their AOR. The individual teams interrogated various improvised explosive devices, performed combat live-saving procedures, used live demolitions and various robotic platforms.
The final day brought all the teams together to complete a mission with named objectives along the route. On this day, the joint service group worked as one to interrogate weapon caches, search and clear buildings of IEDs and disarm suicide vests on hostages while taking simulated fire from enemy combatants.
“These are bigger problem sets than usual,” said U.S. Navy EOD2 Matthew Pazdur, an EOD tech who participated in the exercise. “The biggest part here was interacting with the other services and learning how to manage multiple aspects at once to include team members, other teams and the on-scene commander. When all those different aspects come together, it makes it more realistic.”
EOD technicians all have the same foundation and are trained to the same standard as they attend formal joint service training when they enter the career field. As the EOD technicians progress in their careers within their respective branch they tend to develop their own TTPs and specialize in certain areas based off the needs of their branch’s mission. For example, the Air Force EOD technicians are used heavily in the support of flying missions, whereas, the Navy EOD technicians are used largely in support of special operations missions.
“This joint training is a great opportunity to see and share the different tools and techniques used by the other branches to complete their missions,” said U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Bryce Granger, an EOD technician with the 630th EOD Company. “It’s also beneficial for the younger soldiers. They have to think on their feet and run problems as we hit upon a lot of different training areas, to include unexploded ordnances, improvised explosive devices, combat live-saving skills and casualty evacuation.”
Beyond trading TTP’s another primary objective for the joint exercise was to develop the younger EOD technicians into team leaders.
“All the older EOD techs have been through wars, whereas the younger guys haven’t had much of that experience in war, so we rely on the older generation to teach us,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Giansanti Jr., an EOD technician with the 386th EOD flight. “This whole week was dedicated to running operations. All the skills we have learned over the years were put to the test. Having a week-long exercise was beneficial because we got to test our skills, be evaluated by senior techs and then adjust for the next day.”
The observing senior EOD techs were purposely mixed up and not from the same branch in order to provide outside perspectives from their training and experience to be shared with those team members running the operations.
“We are trying to spin up the new team leaders that are getting ready to fill the roles of the seasoned EOD veterans,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Roger Hughes, a master EOD technician with the 386th EOD flight. “To get all that training and experience in a joint service environment is huge for our guys.”