FORT A.P. HILL, Va. - Six two-man explosive ordnance disposal teams compete for top honors in the fifth annual Department of the Army level explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) Team of the Year competition, Sept. 11-15 at various locations on the installation.
In round-robin fashion, each team will be evaluated as they navigate booby-trapped tunnels, render safe vehicle-born improvised explosive devices, perform technical intelligence, conduct EOD operations in chemical protective equipment, and operations on conventional unexploded ordnance.
Past competitions have been used as a platform to showcase the best of the best in EOD, as well as an opportunity to identify unit strengths and weaknesses.
Units take lessons learned from a competition and apply the information to future training plans. This process allows unit's senior leaders to accurately gage the effectiveness of the Soldiers they lead.
The process has proven to be successful.
Brig. Gen. David Wilson, the 40th Chief of Ordnance, talked about the importance of the competition in his opening ceremony speech.
"This event is bigger than just training," said Wilson. "It allows us to assess how we are doing in the institutional Army, training our professionals and seeing how units in the field continue to build upon the training that's gained in the institutional Army in a decisive-action, competitive training environment."
The competition has in fact become bigger than simply training. New this year, the EOD competition will join two other similar competitions to become the 2017 Ordnance Crucible.
According to the Ordnance Corps' official website, the crucible was designed to test Soldiers' teamwork and critical thinking skills as they apply technical solutions to real-world problems and allow divisions to validate instructional training, while displaying their respective unit's skills.
The site also states that participants of three individual competitions will be subjected to decisive-action training environments to test their knowledge and mastery of tasks within their respective occupational skill sets.
The crucible began Aug. 7 with the ammunition transfer holding points (ATHP) competition, held at Fort Pickett, a Virginia Army National Guard installation located near the town of Blackstone, Va. Teams of this event conducted land navigation, sling-load operations, analysis of ATHP faults, Standard Army Ammunition System-Modernization employment, and ATHP layouts.
The second competition consisted of combat repair teams (CRT) and was also held at Fort Pickett. Teams of this event performed battle damage assessment and repair, conducted recovery operations, and competed in a maintenance challenge.
The two competitions featured 20 teams from divisions throughout the Army.
As the final competition comes to an end, Wilson said he plans to use results from the crucible to develop fiscal year 2018 training objectives.
"The intent is to take those lessons learned back, apply them to our training doctrine system, and look at where we may need to adjust our points of interest." Said Wilson. "That way we give our EOD professionals the training they need to continue to be successful on the battlefield."
Maj. Joseph Cullingford, the executive officer for 73rd Ordnance Battalion and action officer for the EOD team of the year competition, said it is vital that training objectives continually evolve.
"Each year we bring in the best of the best. We have to stay current," Cullingford said.
Wilson said the crucible is about "actual" feedback "real" training. "That's the thing that makes us better," he added.