Story by Army Sgt. Adam Fischman
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BOTSWANA - "I found another wedding cake," said Staff Sgt. Tracy Dice, a bomb technician with the 430th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company out of Washington, N.C. As she slowly lowered herself to examine the metal device with meticulous caution, it became apparent she was not referring to a fluffy, sweet dessert entree.
Dice and her team are participating in Southern Accord 12, a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored, U.S. Army Africa-led combined, joint exercise designed to enhance military capabilities and interoperability between U.S. military forces and the Botswana Defense Force.
"What U.S. forces and the BDF are doing with EOD coincide very well", said Maj. Bright Rantshadi, BDF commander of the 82nd Combat Engineer Regiment. "The U.S. forces have been very cooperative as well as knowledgeable and we are learning a lot from them. I would like to see a continued relationship enabling other BDF soldiers throughout Botswana to participate in this valuable training opportunity."
EOD's mission in Botswana is to clear a safe maneuver area at the Shoshong Range for U.S. joint military forces and the BDF to conduct training exercises on together. They also provide training on explosive hazards, improvised explosive devices, unexploded ordnance, and reconnaissance and chemical procedures, so both the BDF and U.S. military can sharpen their skills through a sharing of knowledge.
"This is a positive experience where we get to see how other military forces operate," said Sgt. 1st Class Stuart Stevens of the 430th, and a Snow Hill, N.C., native. "EOD is an ever-evolving career field, where you never know when you're going to learn something new, or in a different and possibly better way."
Although the majority of the 430th is currently deployed to Kuwait, three EOD bomb technicians are participating in SA12. EOD technicians have also been partnered with BDF EOD technicians to clear unexploded ordnance off of training sites, with the support of combat engineers from the 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment out of New Jersey. Once the site is cleared, the BDF and Joint U.S. Infantry forces will utilize it for a multi-day field training exercise.
"We've found a significant amount of unexploded ordnance and we were able to safely dispose of it," said Chattanooga native Staff Sgt. James Scott, with the 430th. "It's always good to clear an area like this so it can be used again as a safe environment for soldiers to train."
Fourteen to 16-hour days leave these EOD technicians exhausted by close of business, just to wake up the following morning and do it all over again. At the end of the day however, Dice said she still loves what she does in EOD.
"This is a close-knit family," she said. "We are a small community within the military and there's nothing else quite like it. When we meet with the BDF EOD technicians, the same camaraderie in their unit allows us to work very well together."
For Dice, meeting the BDF soldiers and seeing how they do their job has been her favorite part of SA12. She said the BDF have gone above and beyond to accommodate them, as well as assist in a give-and-take relationship where both teams have been able to learn from one another.
"Fireworks just aren't the same after this job," said Scott. "It's a whole lot of planning, training and work for those last 30 seconds of pure awesome."