By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)December 6, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- In the "bomb shack" off of Butts Road, Eric Stoneking hunched over a table full of household items -- steel wool, copper wires, various tools and rolls of tape.
"I was asked for a simple clothespin switch," he said. "But I always think, 'How can I make it harder?' So I'm rigging the clothespin to a tripwire."
A civilian contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., Stoneking works as a training aids fabricator, supporting the 71st Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) in training missions with simulated improvised explosive devices.
"Everything is tested," he said. "If it doesn't work, it doesn't go out. I take pride in my work."
Stoneking is one of five members of the civilian Readiness, Validation and Military Training Team, a U.S. Army Forces Command program dedicated to helping EOD Soldiers navigate the daunting field of bomb detection and disarmament.
"It definitely is beneficial," said Command Sgt. Maj. Derryl Valk, 242nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 71st EOD. "The concept of RMVTT is good in that they're here to support our training. This allows us to produce a realistic and productive training without making any sacrifices."
"We base the training on the specific nature of the mission," said Bill Maxcy, training integrator and an Army EOD veteran who retired from the 71st EOD in 2008.
Maxcy said the RVMTT's mission is to provide equipment and support, assisting units in training and building training aids when needed. His team -- made up of veteran EOD technicians and former Army intelligence -- includes EOD analysts, a training aids fabricator and a dedicated curriculum developer to help create realistic scenarios for current EOD Soldiers.
"With the expanded roles of the EOD mission, there was a gap as far as the training process," Maxcy said.
In addition to a rapid deployment cycle, EOD units support local, state and federal bomb squads and law enforcement. EOD units are also tasked with providing two-man teams to provide security for dignitaries traveling in the U.S. and abroad.
"We fill that gap and provide continuity as troops deploy," he said.
To bridge that gap, Maxcy said each civilian has a military background in EOD and embeds with units from the 71st EOD to build relationships. That background knowledge allows the team to concoct realistic training scenarios and training aids to help EOD troops, he added.
Stoneking began his EOD career in 1999 as an Air Force EOD technician. After leaving the service in 2006, Stoneking returned to the fight, deploying as a contractor to Iraq to clean up unexploded ordnance.
He was hit May 3, 2006, when an explosively formed penetrator detonated. Shrapnel penetrated his body, severing tendons, lacerating his face, chipping his teeth and causing damage to his jaw.
"I got pretty banged up," he said.
After four years of "getting fixed," Stoneking pursued jobs supporting EOD units. In January, he was hired by Booz Allen Hamilton.
"I build the training aids, the bombs, for EOD so they'll be better equipped down the road," he said. "It's nice. It's fun. This is relaxing for me.
"When I first got hurt I made a decision. … I was going to go back and train the guys the best way I can. I think I achieved that goal."