CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo - U.S. Army Sgt. Bradley Houston participated in a team leader certification exercise at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, July 27, 2019. Houston is deployed to Kosovo in support of Multinational Battle Group East's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Task Force.
Qualifying in the team leader certification, offers Houston a chance to be in charge of his own team in the future.
"It's a chance to utilize all the skills you've been training on all these years," said Houston. "And eventually pass it on to the next younger soldier that comes in [to EOD]."
Task Force EOD team leader, Sgt. Blake White, orchestrated the improvised explosive device response scenario based on current and recurring trends over the past 20 years.
White graded Houston on pre-situation approach, actions on the scene, and the scenario's outcome.
The exercise's scenario included a patrol team made up of medical Soldiers. White instructed exercise enablers to locate a trip wire during a patrol and report the details to TF EOD.
"The enablers help out because they give an outside perspective," said White. "If you send an EOD guy down on an improvised explosive device, they're going to have further knowledge in dealing with that scenario."
Houston along with U.S. Army Spc. George Purdy, another TF EOD team member responded to the incident. The two developed a plan of action, notionally notifying relevant and higher commands across the MNBG-E. They located and planned the disabling of the command wire and the directional focused fragmentation charge - a type of improvised explosive device.
Houston said that it is good to train on things that are basic tasks because that is what is most common in the field.
When combing the area during the exercise, Houston worked carefully maneuvering toward the reported IED, until he identified the trip wire.
"You have to have patience, that's the bottom line," said Houston. "As soon as you start trying to rush, you're going to skip over things."
White said there were areas of improvement but he stressed the importance of learning the scenario here, in a controlled training environment.
"I think he has the right thought process and that he is going in the right direction," said White. "Everything he did was safe and calculated."
Houston said he chose to be an EOD Soldier because of the challenges and rewards the career field offers. The Nashville, Tennessee native also said EOD's mission is not exclusive to combat environments.
"There's still a mission state side," said Houston. "You don't have to be deployed to do your job."
"EOD is a very close-knit community and the importance in passing on the knowledge as team leader to Houston is going to save people's lives," said White. "Whether it's saving his life, or when he's on scene saving the lives of the local population."
TF EOD, an integral part of the KFOR mission, is responsible for locating and diffusing unexploded ordnance, identifying bomb threats and securing the Multinational Battle Group - East area of operations for all soldiers and the people of Kosovo.