Why I Serve – 3rd generation EOD technician

By Eric KowalFebruary 15, 2024

Sgt. 1st Class Steven R. O’Connor
Sgt. 1st Class Steven R. O’Connor (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

“Why I Serve” is a series of feature articles highlighting the reasons civilian and military personnel serve in various roles to support to the Picatinny Arsenal community.

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Sgt. 1st Class Steven R. O’Connor, known as “Rex” to his peers, is currently assigned to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit at Picatinny Arsenal. He is the Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Non-Commissioned officer (NCO).

O’Connor, who oversees the U.S. Munitions Section, is approaching 14-years of U.S. Army active-duty service and is a third-generation Soldier and EOD technician. His father and grandfather also served in that military occupational specialty.

The EOD profession is one of the most dangerous occupations in the military. On average, there are more than 6,000 brave men and women serving as EOD technicians who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of others.

“Our mission set is so wide spectrum, so vast because it covers the entire gamut of weapons to include chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive, so we have to be prepared to render safe and mitigate any one of those threats,” said O’Connor.

Before enlistment, O’Connor worked in merchandising for a beverage company, travelling from store to store setting up displays.

“I always knew I wanted to and planned to enlist, which is why I probably did it a little later in life,” O’Connor said. There was no doubt that he wanted to be an EOD technician. “I was 25 years old when I enlisted. I went straight to the recruiter’s office and said, ‘This is what I want to do. It’s either that or nothing.’”

O’Connor was married when he enlisted. That meant his wife now had to adjust to their new way of life. That military lifestyle included her husband being away for Army basic training, MOS school and qualification course, changing duty stations, and two deployments to Iraq, all while the couple raised three children.

“I love the job,” O’Connor said of his profession. “We don’t ever stop. When we come back from a deployment, we take over our stateside response mission.”

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Division is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center. The division falls under the Munitions Engineering Technology Center and provides EOD functional support to U.S. munition developers.

O’Connor and his team provide input to ensure supportability of U.S. Army ordnance items by developing render safe/disposal procedures and make certain that program and product managers comply with Army regulations.

“In order for any weapon or technology to be developed, it has to meet EOD suitability,” O’Connor said. “An EOD tech goes through every technology to include vehicle platforms, munitions, gun, etc., to verify that it is safe for use. At the end of the day, an EOD tech is going to be the person that has to download a system, and save it or dismantle it, which is why we provide a suitability statement. Keeping us in the loop forces everyone to meet a certain criterion.”

Along with job satisfaction, there is a tangible aspect to O’Connor’s commitment to the profession.

“What’s beneficial about being in EOD, is the job itself,” he said.  “A lot of the NCOs like myself have become proficient in the technical side of operations and have been able to advance in civilian education. The minimum requirement to become a first sergeant now is a bachelor’s degree, so you have these technical NCOs that have advanced degrees, sometimes equating to that of the officers in the unit.”

O’Connor has used tuition assistance to earn both a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and a master’s in business administration though the University of Arizona global campus. He intends to pass his G.I. Bill benefits down to his children.

The opportunities offered to those who willingly, voluntarily join the military are unmatched, so if you are thinking about joining the Army, visit GoArmy.com or call 1-888-550-Army.

Sgt. 1st Class Steven R. O’Connor (left) assists in the unfurling of the Senior Executive Service flag during a ceremony when Anne Marie Petrock was officially appointed as the U.S. Army’s Senior Research Scientist for Warheads Technology.
Sgt. 1st Class Steven R. O’Connor (left) assists in the unfurling of the Senior Executive Service flag during a ceremony when Anne Marie Petrock was officially appointed as the U.S. Army’s Senior Research Scientist for Warheads Technology. (Photo Credit: JESSE GLASS) VIEW ORIGINAL