FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Specialist Brent Tucke and Pvt. 1st Class Jackson Chang visited the Gate 10 Express looking for a bite to eat, while there they may also have found a new career path in explosive ordnance disposal.
The two are currently assigned to 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and were among dozens of interested Soldiers who gave their contact information to recruiters during the 52nd Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Hiring Day, hosted July 21 outside the Express.
“I’ve thought about doing EOD before, and I learned that a lot of prior service infantrymen end up making some very good EOD Soldiers,” Tucke said. “Right now, they’re looking for a lot of in-service recruits to pull from the lines, and EOD is definitely one of the top-tier groups that I’d like to end up in.”
Finding Soldiers willing to reclass to EOD is an Armywide priority, and Fort Campbell is among 15 installations hosting EOD hiring days this year to strengthen the career field’s flagging recruitment numbers.
“So far we’ve had a pretty good turnout, and definitely some personnel who are interested,” said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Hillery, 717th Ordnance Company, 184th Ordnance Battalion, 52nd EOD. “We’re in dire straits and definitely in need of team members, especially lower enlisted personnel, so my priority and focus out here is toward those E-3s or brand-new E-4s who have some longevity to try and foster our numbers.”
To draw crowds and meet that goal, the 717th Ord. Co. set up a static display featuring a bomb robot and other specialized equipment. They also highlighted the potential for up to $72,000 in reenlistment bonuses and unique opportunities for EOD Soldiers.
“You get to do specialized missions where you support the Secret Service,” said Staff Sgt. Russell Gore, 717th Ord. Co., 184th Ord. Batt., 52nd EOD. “It takes you all over the world, and you get a stateside mission where you do your job over here.”
The idea of traveling the world was especially appealing for Spc. Carl West, a mechanic with 63rd Chemical Company (CBRN).
“I know EOD deploys a lot, and I heard they recently went out to Afghanistan and to Africa before that,” West said. “I really just want to get out and do more with my life. Currently I’m a Stryker systems mechanic, and I’d like to transition into EOD and work on their vehicles.”
Hands-on capabilities are a major asset for EOD Soldiers, and Spc. Braden Asher, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Abn. Div., found his skillset – operating unmanned aircraft systems – could transfer well.
“A lot of my job is attention to detail and setting up equipment, especially flying and making sure the aircraft doesn’t go down,” Asher said. “I learned that a lot of EOD is mechanical, it’s more hands-on than anything and requires a lot of attention to detail, and I’m possibly interested in transferring. If I were to get that opportunity, I’d want to be a technician and take bombs apart.”
For interested Soldiers like Asher, the first step toward that opportunity was leaving contact information with the 52nd EOD representatives.
“Our in-service recruiters will reach out to them and get the process going,” Hillery said. “They’ll do a background check, make sure that they’re prime candidates, and once they can prove that they’ll come back to the company for a commander’s interview.”
After that, prospective candidates will take on a seven-week preparation course at Fort Lee, Virginia, followed by 90 days of on-the-job training, or OJT, with the 52nd EOD.
“That would benefit us significantly,” Gore said. “We’d get to see a bunch of new faces coming in to get some OJT, and our younger Soldiers also train with them and get more practice so they understand their job better. Plus, it’s going to strengthen our career field because the more we teach them as an OJT the higher chance they have of making it through the schoolhouse.”
Graduating from EOD school is a challenging task for Soldiers entering the field and includes 28 weeks of advanced training at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Not everyone passes, but those who do could make up the next generation of EOD leadership in the Army.
“We’ve had a lot of interest and a lot of people putting their names down,” Gore said. “It’s been great because you learn from the other Soldiers what their career fields are like and see the morale in their career fields. A lot of them are showing love for their jobs but saying it’s just not for them, and it’s great seeing how everybody appreciates their own portion of the Army. Hopefully we can take some of them in and get them a better career they can use outside of the military.”