Fort Carson Soldiers win EOD team of year competition
August 23, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. (Aug. 23, 2012) -- A three-man explosive ordnance disposal team from Fort Carson emerged victorious in the EOD Team of the Year competition held Aug. 13-17 at Fort Knox, Ky.
"It was humbling," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Thompson, team leader, 663rd Ordnance Company, 242nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal, or EOD, Battalion, 71st Ordnance Group (EOD). "We competed against many EOD Soldiers and we competed in front of the entire command."
Thompson, along with Staff Sgt. Josue Sandoval and Sgt. Matthew Bagley, completed a dozen EOD tasks and defeated four EOD teams from across the Army to earn the title.
Last held in 2001, this year marked the first time EOD Soldiers participated in the competition due to frequent deployments in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
"For the EOD world, this is the Best Ranger or Best Sapper (competition)," Thompson said. "There wasn't a lot of separation between first and last."
Competition officials said only a few points separated the field, which consisted of top teams from the 52nd Ordnance Group, Fort Campbell, Ky.; 49th Chemical Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas; and the 111th Ordnance Group (EOD), a National Guard unit from Alabama.
"Being able to compete against the best EOD techs in the field, it's an accomplishment," said Sandoval.
"This was basically the (U.S. Army Forces Command)-level competition," said Capt. Clay Kirkpatrick, commander, 663rd Ord. "The ultimate goal is for next year to make this a (Department of the Army)-level competition."
Hosted by the 20th Support Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield explosives), the competition tested Soldiers with improvised explosive device, or IED, chemical ordnance and multiple conventional ordnance scenarios. It also measured basic Soldier skills such as land navigation and weapons qualification.
"It was challenging," said Bagley. "I honestly didn't think I was that good."
The teammates said remaining focused on one task at a time was essential.
"Staying motivated (throughout the competition) was tough," Sandoval said. "You only had 30 minutes to an hour to rest and reset before going back out for the next mission."
"Individually, nothing we did was all that difficult," said Thompson. "(Competition officials) did the best they could to throw everything at us. Focusing on that specific task was the biggest challenge."
Another challenge: the 90-degree temperatures and high humidity.
"I could chew the air," Thompson said. "I wasn't dry a single second of the competition."
"Wearing the bomb and chem suit didn't make it any cooler," Bagley said. "It was 120 (degrees) on the asphalt."
Despite the heat, the team persevered through each task.
"They demonstrated they're good Soldiers first and excellent EOD techs," said Lt. Col. Gerardo Meneses, commander, 242nd EOD Bn. "We're excited and happy for their victory."
Meneses recognized the Soldiers as well as their leaders for the triumph.
"A lot of credit goes to Captain Kirkpatrick and First Sergeant (David) Grotkin," he said. "They were probably the most aggressive as far as company and team-level training. This victory is proof of all their hard work."
Kirkpatrick said the team, which won the 71st EOD qualification in June, trained for the Team of the Year for eight weeks.
"Their primary focus once they won the Group Team of the Year was to train for this event," said Kirkpatrick, estimating the team spent 40-50 hours each week preparing.
"A lot of skills had to be honed to succeed," said Thompson, adding that future competitions will help strengthen EOD troops as units from Hawaii, Alaska, South Korea and Europe are able to compete.
"This was the first competition in 11 years," he said. "The field is just going to get better, and better, and better."