FORT LEE, Va. - The 2018 U.S. Army Ordnance Crucible - Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team of the Year training assessment concluded with a ceremony to reveal the U.S. Army's top performing EOD team, June 8, at Hatcher Hall on the EOD Campus.

In addition to revealing the EOD team most deserving of the title - Team of the Year, attendees were given a virtual tour of the assessment and a rare opportunity to talk with one of the last surviving bomb disposal technicians trained at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.

The ceremony was hosted by Brig. Gen. Heidi Hoyle, the 41st Chief of Ordnance, who said it was an exciting day for the Army, Ordnance Corps and EOD community, to reveal the 720th Ordnance Company, from Baumholder, Germany, as the Army's top EOD team.

"Last Sunday, we had five teams enter the Crucible. We would try them and ultimately prove to them that they had the best that our Army has to offer. For five days, we tried their technical expertise... We tried their stamina... We tried their problem-solving skills...And we tried their abilities to work as a team," said Hoyle.

"We subjected them to real-world problems associated with large-scale combat operations in multi-domain environments and they rose to the challenge in every way," she added.

Amidst all rigors faced during the training assessment, 1st Lt Jesse Way, an EOD team member with the 720th Ord. Co., said anticipating his team leader's requirements was among the most challenging.

Way and his team leader, Staff Sgt. Ryan Essenmacher, have worked together for more than a year and participated in their company and U.S. Army Europe's team of the year assessments.

"Being able to work with and understand how your team leader works, their methodology of thinking, [is how] we as team members help guide them and make sure they understand that there is a broader aspect to what they are doing; and to make sure they are doing it safely," said Way.

"For a team to function well, it is imperative that there is cohesion between the team leader and team member," added Essenmacher.

Essenmacher attributes his team's victory to the strong bond he and Way forged.

A digital tour, held prior to the start of the closing ceremony, was a new addition to this year's assessment. The intent was to show attendees how participating teams performed each event of the assessment through photos and videos. Additionally, the content displayed during tour will be used to enhance current training and to develop future training assessments.

The EOD team of the year assessment was the first of three major training events of the 2018 Ordnance Crucible. The other events are the Ammunition Transfer Holding Point Team of the Year, to be held at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., June 24-29, and the Combat Repair Team of the Year, to be held at Fort Pickett, Va., Sept. 9-14.

The Ordnance Crucible is designed to encourage the sharing of knowledge, techniques and information through a platform that solicits invaluable feedback, necessary to shape and refine ordnance doctrine and training, to enable the readiness for the Army of 2030 and beyond.

This year's EOD team of the year assessment was unique because, in addition to looking towards the future, it honored the past.

"Our modern EOD operations grew from the legacy left to us by those courageous men who first answered the call in the 1940's. We are truly honored to have one of those brave pioneers with us as our guest speaker today," said Hoyle.

Gerald "Jerry" D. Simon, now 95 years old, served as a bomb disposal technician from 1944 to 1946. During that time, he completed multiple mission in Okinawa and Tokyo, Japan. His presence at the closing ceremony served as a reminder of how far EOD as come.

"I cannot underscore enough that every technique and tool, every [thought process] and procedure, has its foundational roots in his generation," said Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Weimer, Simon's escort during the event and former senior enlisted leader of 242nd Ordnance Battalion, 71st Ordnance Group, at Fort Carson, Colo.

Simon captivated the audience with descriptive stories of how his service began, the type of training and equipment he received, and some of the missions he undertook.

After 70 years, Simon concluded his speech thanking all those who made his reunion with the EOD community possible.

The ceremony was followed by a reception, where more gifts and accolades were presented to the top three participating teams.