Soldier earns first place in bomb competition
Lt. Col. Phillip Murrell, 192nd EOD Battalion commander (left) and Staff Sgt. Nickolas Brodock talk with Rep. Rick Crawford, a former Army EOD specialist, at the Feb. 26 Capitol Hill reception. Brodock received several mementos for finishing in first place in the U.S. Bomb Technician Association's annual competition. (Photo Credit: Clemens Gaines) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Staff Sgt. Nickolas Brodock was selected as the top explosive ordnance technician in the U.S. Bomb Technician Association's annual competition in December.

For his demonstrated capability as an EOD technician, Brodock received several special mementos from three congressmen, members of the EOD Caucus, at a Feb. 26 reception in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.

"I attribute my success to a constant focus on training for all situations in my unit, the 55th EOD Company at Fort Belvoir, Virginia," said Brodock.

The USBTA competition was held at a training range near Orlando, Florida. Brodock competed against 30 technicians from Defense Department, Federal and state agencies. Unlike a normal EOD situation with a two-person team, Brodock was on his own to solve multiple situations involving improvised explosive devices.

Observers from the USBTA graded the timed problem-solving ability for each contestant. In the first nine of the 10 event competition, each technician was given the same situation and the same tools. Several of the events required wearing the 70 pound bomb suit with helmet. As protective as it is, Brodock noted that it can be stiff and hard to maneuver in bending over to examine a suspected IED.

One test involved opening a car door to remove a device using rope and hand tools. Another involved searching for IEDs in a room with little to no light. The technicians also used a portable x-ray machine to examine suspected IEDs to determine the safest way to defuse it.

In the tenth and most challenging situation, Brodock had 30 minutes to find and clear a room of IEDs with the added twist that a hostage sitting on a device.

For their technical excellence in the competition, Reps. Rick Crawford, Brian Mast and David Schweikert personally thanked Brodock and two other top competitors. Each received a commemorative House of Representatives coin and Crawford presented Brodock with a special patch from his Arkansas district.

In addition, Mast and Crawford had unique connections to the EOD world. Mast, from Florida, lost both of his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2010. Crawford is a former Army EOD specialist; his father did the same work in the Air Force.

Perhaps the most poignant comments came from Schweikert, from Arizona, who told the crowd of more than 100 people that earlier in the day, Capitol Hill Police and bomb technicians responded to a suspicious device where he worked in the Longworth Building. "It turned out that someone left a purse, but what if it was something else?"

Capt. Rafael Polo, 55th EOD Company commander from Brooklyn, New York, said that "All of our EOD technicians train hard to be able to deal with any situation. Their excellence as Soldiers is often unsung so I appreciate the recognition that Staff Sgt. Brodock received."

Brodock, from Bend, Oregon, has been in the Army for more than six years.