By Sgt. 1st Class John BrownAugust 10, 2017
The ability to blend technical knowledge, speed, precision, discipline, and patience while racing a clock and standing face to face with explosives. . .that's a day in the life for an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team.
Every year, the best Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams in the Pacific meet at Schofield Barracks to compete in the United States Army Pacific Command (USARPAC) EOD Team of the Year competition.
This year's competition saw teams from Alaska, Hawaii, and Korea, "the competitors are special because they have been chosen to represent their units/region and compete to be the best in USARPAC," said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Loban, a planning non-commissioned officer, 303rd Ordnance Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.
According to Loban, the planning for this year's six day competition was more than six months in the making.
"The tasks must be challenging because they have to cover the largest swath of EOD tasks possible; not just IEDs (improvised explosive devices), ordnance, CBRN (chemical/biological/radiological/nuclear), or basic Soldier tasks, but all of it in extreme detail," said Loban.
Loban went on to explain that each of these tasks must be incredibly realistic in order to evoke the same level of response from the competing teams.
"Realism is extremely important," said Loban, "if the construct that the team is operating inside of isn't realistic, then they will possibly react in any number of unpredictable ways that are directly detrimental to training; simply because the scenario and training aids were not realistic."
One example of the realism involved in this year's competition included the removal of ordnance from an AH-64 Apache helicopter and a round that was lodged in the barrel of an M198 155mmm Howitzer; both of which had to be completed in the middle of the night.
Staff Sgt. Josh Estes, an EOD Team Leader, 74th Ordnance Company (EOD), 303rd ORD BN, 8th MP BDE said, "Competing in a competition like this means to me that I'm the best; it can show you that you really know the little details that make up the bigger picture."
"We cover such a wide range of responsibilities with our EOD mission, both stateside and deployed, and in order to fully understand that, competitions like this give you an opportunity to test that and build that confidence," said Estes.
"During this competition you learn a lot about yourself, your team, and you're going to learn a lot about how much you know about this job," said Estes.
After six days of competition, the winners were announced at a ceremony on Schofield Barracks, July 28th.
Staff Sgt. Sean Conley and Spc. Devan Hardman, an EOD Team from the 65th ORD CO (EOD) in Fairbanks, Alaska, were proclaimed the best EOD Team in the Pacific.
With a combined 21 years of military experience, eight in the EOD field, this was the first time Conley and Hardman had competed in a Team of the Year competition.
To prepare for the competition, the team modified their physical training regimen to include additional road marches, studied EOD publications, and ran through a variety training scenarios.
When asked why he chose the EOD career field, Conley said, "I like the idea that there's a lot of time and effort that goes into the design and manufacture of ordnance, they cost quite a bit of money and are designed to detonate or hit a target somewhere; but they can be stopped by a guy that barely graduated high school in Ohio."
"There's a malicious beauty to it; we are able to do a lot of stuff that people, not necessarily can't do, but aren't trained to do," said Conley.
Hardman said, "We put a lot of work into this and it showed so we will spend the next month or so getting ready for the DA TOY (Department of the Army Team of the Year) and keep training."
The Department of the Army EOD Team of the Year will take place later this fall