By Staff Sgt. Richard Sherba, 8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment CommandJune 9, 2014
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - The best explosive ordnance disposal teams from throughout United States Army Pacific gathered here to compete in USARPAC's EOD Team of the Year Competition held June 1 - 6.
The 303rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion hosted the weeklong competition and in doing so opened the competition up to all branches of the military resulting in an additional competing team, a Marine EOD Team from Okinawa, Japan.
"We were pleased to determine which team is going to represent USARPAC at the Department of the Army team of the year competition, and we welcomed the opportunity to have our sister services out here. The Marine Corps was able to send a team allowing for the interaction and competition amongst joint services; which is great, especially since we [all military services] attend the same school together," said Lt. Col. Paul Kopelen, commander, 303rd EOD Bn., 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.
Marine Sgt. Brandyn Burke, EOD technician, 3rd EOD Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, spoke about the opportunity to compete in the competition, "I really enjoy working in joint service environments. You get to see how other branches do things; you can bounce new or different ideas off each other and learn from one another."
Burke continued, "in the future I hope we can make this a joint service competition, a Department of Defense type of event. We really appreciated the Army inviting us out here to attend, it's a great opportunity to learn and share knowledge."
In addition to the Marine EOD team the weeklong event showcased the Army's best EOD teams from Alaska and Hawaii.
All teams were put through a mentally and physically challenging week. The week started with a physical fitness test, and the teams never stopped competing until six days later.
The days were comprised of weapons ranges; physical fitness challenges; and fully resourced situational training exercise lanes that evaluated the teams' tactical and technical skills and overall EOD knowledge.
"It's a huge privilege just to be selected to compete for team of the year; because it means your company feels you represent the best of the best from within your company," said Sgt. Ryan Essenmacher, EOD team sergeant, 706th EOD Co., 303rd EOD Bn.
Essenmacher added, "it has been an extremely challenging week, the competition pushed us to the edge both mentally and physically. It definitely tested our endurance and tested our skills. It made us reach pretty far in terms of our endurance and technical knowledge."
The EOD team of the year competition, at all levels, is a team competition; no individual competes by themselves.
"The competition tried to break us down, but that is the whole point. That's were being a team is so important; it's not a Soldier or individual event. It was tough both physically and mentally, but you have to push through it as a team," said Spc. Michael Rooney, EOD team specialist, 706th EOD Co., 303rd EOD Bn. "The added pressure of not wanting to let your teammates down makes you compete even harder. You want to be the one helping your teammates and making things easier for the team, and not the other way around. That motivates you to really go all out, all the time."
The competition was fiercely competitive, first place hanged in the balance on the final event of the final day of the competition.
"Across the four teams it was extremely close, it was so close in fact that the last event of the competition determined 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place," said Kopelen.
The following teams placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd:
706th EOD Co., 303rd EOD Bn., 8th MP Brigade, 8th TSC from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
716th EOD Co., 725th BSB, 4th BCT, 25th ID from Fort Richardson, Alaska
3rd EOD Co., 9th ESB, 3rd MLG from Okinawa, Japan