By Bob McElroy IMCOMAugust 20, 2014
FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (Aug. 20, 2014) -- A three-Soldier team from the 706th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii was named the 2014 EOD Team of the Year Aug. 15, at Fort A.P. Hill.
The team, Staff Sgt. David Townsend, Sgt. Ryan Essenmacher and Spc. Michael Rooney, completed a grueling four-day event that tested them physically, intellectually and emotionally. And, when it was done, they prevailed over the four other teams that were competing, which was a significant achievement, as all teams were the best in their region.
The 706th's route to the top was not easy. Even before they began the competition, severe weather turned a one-day trip by air into a four-day odyssey, according to Essenmacher.
With a tropical storm barreling toward Hawaii, the team left on the last flight out of Honolulu, Aug. 7, en route to Atlanta, and then to Richmond, Virginia. Severe weather in Atlanta caused their flight to be diverted to Birmingham, Alabama, and further delays ensued.
They finally arrived at Fort A.P. Hill on Aug. 10, and despite their weariness, began the competition with the rest of the teams on Aug. 11.
The first day, brought an Army Physical Fitness Test, followed by weapons qualification, and a series of written exams that tested their EOD knowledge.
The real challenges began on Aug. 12, with 14 EOD incidents that tested their stamina, skill and intellect. The incidents included a victim in a collar bomb, a stuck projectile in an artillery tube, a downed aircraft in a minefield, and more.
Following the awards ceremony, Townsend said that it was amazing to win the competition.
"I didn't think we were going to win. I'm ecstatic that we did," he said. "It was extremely challenging mentally and physically."
Townsend said credit for the team's win goes to his Soldiers, Essenmacher and Rooney.
"They're the brains of the team, without them I fail," he said.
Essenmacher said it was a very emotional moment when his team was named winner.
"I nearly cried on stage," he said.
Essenmacher said the team has been pushing hard at work since June, first in the U.S. Army Pacific EOD Team of the Year competition, later preparing for this event and then competing this week.
"Since June, we've put in a lot of long nights, and it's paid off," he said.
Rooney, the youngest member of the team, said it felt good to win.
"I don't think it's sunk in yet," he said.
Rooney said that even though the competition was tough, he enjoyed it.
"It tested our skills, it was fun, especially with me being new to EOD," he said. "I learned a lot."
The four other teams that competed were: the 25th Chemical Company, 48th Chemical Brigade, Edgewood, Maryland.; the 53rd EOD Company, 71st EOD Group, Yakima Training Center, Washington; the 221st EOD Company, 111th Ordnance Group (Florida Army National Guard), Camp Blanding, Florida; and the 723rd EOD Company, 52nd Ordnance Group, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.