FORT CARSON, Colo. - Two New York Soldiers represented the Army National Guard at the All-Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team of the Year Competition April 16-19.
Sgt 1st Class Robert Contini and Sgt. Michael Wing, members of the 1108th Ordnance Company, competed against four Active Army two-man explosive ordnance disposal teams representing Army commands around the world.
There are five explosive ordnance disposal companies in the Army National Guard. The 1108th Is part of the New York Army National Guard’s 501st Ordnance Battalion (EOD).
The team from the 734th Ordnance Company, based at Fort Bliss, Texas, won the competition.
But just getting the chance to compete is “incredibly significant” for Contini and Wing and the 1108th, said 1108th 1st Sgt. Jeremy Blackie.
“The notoriety that they get just from being at that level is huge,” Blackie said. “The amount of accolades they are getting is intense as well.”
Having Guardsmen compete with Active Army EOD technicians is an advertisement for the Guard, Blackie said.
He said it takes at least a year, and more often 18 months, for a Soldier to qualify as an EOD technician. Contini and Wing showed the Active Army Soldiers that they could join the Guard and still serve in the EOD field, Blackie said.
Contini and Wing were selected to represent the Army Guard based on an assessment of all Army Guard EOD Soldier assessments, deployments and recommendations.
After he joined the New York Army National Guard in 2005, Contini served as a musician, signalman, and ammunition specialist before becoming EOD certified in 2017.
He wanted to do the job because it is “the most humanitarian of Army jobs out there,” Contini said.
“It doesn’t matter if the bomb was left by the enemy or by us, or whether it was left 40 or 50 or 60 or 100 years ago, somebody needs to remove it,” he explained.
Wing, a New York State Trooper who has served in the 1108th since 2016, said he joined the EOD world because of the challenge.
“It is more than logistics and transportation and I didn’t really want to kick down doors and shoot at people. I wanted something a little bit more,” he said.
Wing and Contini deployed with the 1108th to Kuwait in 2021. They dealt with unexploded ordnance there and in Iraq and Syria.
Twenty years of battling insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have made it seem like EOD Soldiers only deal with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Contini said. But that is only one of their responsibilities.
“When you are going to school for 11 months, it is only about a month-and-a-half that is focused on IEDs,“ he said.
EOD Soldiers must know how to handle unexploded submunitions left behind by anti-armor artillery shells, minefields, chemical and biological landmines, rounds stuck in artillery tubes, discarded grenades, and ammunition left over from a war 20 or 50 years ago, Wing said.
The competition scenarios reflected the variety of challenges EOD Soldiers face.
In one event, they had to clear a path to a disabled M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, check the crew inside for injuries and treat them, download ammunition from the Bradley and recover the vehicle.
The rule of thumb is that where there is one landmine, there are usually five more, Contini said. In this case, there were 10 more.
While they didn’t win, Wing and Contini said they were glad to be picked to participate.
“This was essentially a free training event with really high-quality training and tools,” he said.