Explosive ordnance disposal Soldiers came to White Sands Missile Range to conduct training challenges to keep their skills sharp.
White Sands Missile Range, while better known for its ability to support testing missions is also active in the support of training of Solders to maintain readiness. This was made clear the weeks of April 3rd and 10th as explosions echoed through the empty desert air during a training event for EOD Soldiers from all over the country.
Making use of WSMR's extensive range area, and the test center's ability to support a wide array of concurrent mission types, the Soldiers were able to conduct complex lane training, addressing specific skill sets and scenarios. The Soldiers were run through extensive physical challenges the first few days on the range to help simulate the fatigue a soldier can experience while on deployment. Then they had to tackle different situations in rapid succession. Some scenarios were more academic in nature, identifying unexploded munitions with and without the help of a computer database. Other challenges were more representative of what a Soldier might encounter while deployed, like discovering an unexploded bomb, and rendering it safe to transport and properly dispose of.
"We have about 15 main events and another 30 miniature events to test not just their skills and knowledge, but their physical strength, ability to communicate with team members, and all the aspects that will run if they are deployed." said Sgt. 1st Class Josue Sandoval Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge for the training event.
Keeping the training current, the event even includes training on the evaluation of emerging and evolving threats. One training event simulated a captured off the shelf drone system equipped with homemade 3D printed bombs. The Soldiers were required to evaluate the system, collecting data
that in a real-world event would be vital to intelligence officers.
"Off the shelf UAS and 3D printed items is something we've been seeing in different areas of operation around the world," Sandoval said. "So (the Soldiers) get to see 3D Printed bomblets now and identify if it's an explosive hazard or not and how to (conduct render safe procedures on) it if they encounter one."
WSMR covers over 2.2 million acres of active range area, which give is a very diverse ecology, allowing it to represent other parts of the country or world, be it a small remote village, arid desert, mountains, grassland, or other environment. As such the training was able to place the Soldiers in locations like what they'd find at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, CA.
"It's an area that replicated NTC, and it can replicate locations all over the world. We have mountains, we have open areas, and even a little (military operations in urban terrain) site." said Sandoval. "It really
allows us to just go for a full spectrum profile for all the lanes."
Choosing WSMR for the event might seem strange since all the Soldiers came from installations already suited for EOD training support, but as the training event was also something of a competition there was some concern over fairness. By conducting the event at WSMR, they'd get all the same support they would at other installations, while providing no unit with a home field advantage. To the WSMR Test Center it was another unique mission requiring specialized support, which the test center delivered.
"The test center has been extremely helpful to us. They provided all range support, and anything that we need, we can just give them a call and they're able to help us out." "It's been a really great relationship we've had these last two weeks from preparation to execution."
With this event proving to be a success, there's now interest in making events like this a regular occurrence on the range.