National Guard Soldiers expand training mission in Europe
August 20, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Explosions are something that most military members, who have deployed, are familiar with. The phrase Improvised Explosive Device can bring dread to every convoy and patrol in a combat zone. For the Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams, however, IEDs are not the only concern out in the field. These teams are also referred to as EODs.
"EOD is called out for a variety of situations such as unexploded ordnance, also known as UXO found on ranges around the base or suspicious packages in the mail room," said a platoon leader with the 720th EOD Company of Mannheim, Germany.
U.S. Army National Guard Soldiers from five different states are traveling to Germany for three-week rotations to support and backfill the active component EOD teams' missions in Germany. There was a local need in Grafenwoehr and the Overseas Deployment Training program responded to ensure coverage was available to support the critical mission.
Soldiers from the 720th and 387th EODs are in Grafenwoehr, Germany to cover down on the responsibilities of the 702nd EOD of Grafenwoehr, who is deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Their mission is to respond to UXO calls, conduct security sweeps, and to provide security consulting regarding explosive matters.
"It is important for us to be here to continue the mission," said an EOD team leader with the 387th EOD Co., an Army National Guard unit out of Cape Cod, Mass. "There is always the possibility of finding an UXO on a weapons range and if so, it can pose a serious threat to military members who are training in the area."
Grafenwoehr Training Area is a primary location for Overseas Deployment Training soldiers that are getting ready to go on deployment. Most of these soldiers will work the ranges at some point during their training.
"It is important to provide a safe environment for soldiers to receive vital training for a deployment," the platoon leader said. "We can help ensure that safety by clearing any potential UXO threats off those ranges."
For example, a 155 mm artillery round was discovered on a range and members from the 720th and 387th took the UXO to an engineer range. The EOD team applied C-4 plastic explosives and detonated the round.
"Identifying the UXOs and disposing of them is a big part of safety on the ranges used by soldiers in training," explained the team leader. "If a vehicle drove over or a soldier stepped on an UXO, it could be a very "bad day" for them."
The mission of EOD units is not easy. The soldiers receive a 10-month initial training course, and they must continue to practice their craft to maintain their skills.
"We must maintain our certification in accordance with the EOD guidelines because all of our missions are real-world events," said the team leader. "Our soldiers need to know how to properly use their equipment so they can effectively perform their mission."
EOD specialists use complex tools to conduct operations. The equipment, such as the TALON robot and EOD bomb disposal suit, allow the team members to detect and detonate explosives while maintaining safety.
According to the platoon leader, training for EOD does not stop with equipment, though. Within the U.S., they conduct multi-organizational training with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as with a host of other nations and agencies across the world.
"All these countries and organizations are working together to understand the trends and patterns with IEDs," said the platoon leader. "We are able to compare notes and use this information to improve the way we conduct business."
The team members of the 720th and 387th EODs are not only providing a service to the military installations around Germany, but they are assisting the local communities as well.
"We get calls from the local authorities when civilians run across any UXO or suspicious package," said the team leader. "This allows us to put our knowledge and skills to use to help the communities outside of the bases."
The soldiers in Grafenwoehr as well as the military members around the world can rest a little easier knowing that should there be any explosion threat, EOD is on the job.
Editor's note: The soldiers interviewed for this story requested to remain anonymous.