A team of international servicemembers passes by an old series of Al Qaeda training grounds. Their mission is routine, but there's always a chance for the unexpected.

"Let's hope nothing goes wrong," says the team leader.

Just as he speaks, an inferno erupts in the distance. The ground shakes and quivers as the air fills with a cloud of destruction. The explosive ordnance disposal team leader removes his hand from the detonator and turns with a smile. Mission accomplished.

Creating large explosions is a regular part of the job for the 466th Air Expeditionary Group, EOD Flight and their international partners on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. They destroy roadside bombs, unexploded munitions and anything else that could be a danger to servicemembers or the local population.

"The best part of the job is keeping everybody safe," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael L. Hatfield, 466th AEG EOD Flight chief from Langley Air Force Base, Va. "You can put your head on the pillow at night if you've done the best you can to keep as many people as you can safe."

Destroying these explosives ensures that they don't fall into the hands of Taliban, said Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Woods, a 466th AEG EOD Flight team leader from Louisville, Ky.
But, roadside bombs are not the only hazardous explosives for servicemembers. Defective and expired ammunition can prove dangerous if someone tries to use them or they are not properly disposed.

Woods said bad ammunition is potentially dangerous until it is destroyed, so an EOD team will take it to a safe area and properly neutralize the threat by exploding it. It's called a controlled detonation.

Controlled detonations are actually a safer and cheaper alternative than sending potentially explosive material back to the U.S. to be disposed of, said Woods.

For the 466th AEG EOD team, it's a win-win situation.

"When you set things up right you get a big flash and a bang and - well, it's better than the Fourth of July," said Hatfield.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16