By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)February 28, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- 1st Lt. Jon Hoekzema said his unit is ready to deploy and, despite not knowing when or where their deployment might be, the Soldiers continue to train for every contingency.
"We are the most ready company this side of the Mississippi," he said.
For four weeks, Hoekzema and other members of the 663rd Ordnance Company, 242nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), participated in a series of pre-deployment workshops including explosive event exploitation, weapons and technology intelligence, homemade explosive and drug lab exploitation and improvised explosive device electronics.
"(The training) is tailored for where we're going and for what we're probably going to be seeing," said Hoekzema, operations officer for the company.
Commanders for the 663rd Ord. partnered with AT Solutions, a contractor through the Joint Asymmetric Threat Awareness and Counter-IED training program, to provide realistic homemade explosive training lanes for Soldiers, Feb. 19-22.
"It's a 40-hour, college level course that provides a good foundation about the (homemade explosive) world," said Justin Anderson, instructor with AT Solutions. "It's designed to get as much information as possible to the troops, in the most cost-effective manner."
Contractors brought chemicals, powders, pressure cookers and fertilizer to help depict a lab typically seen in Afghanistan.
Working in teams, Soldiers inspected various labs, determining what chemicals enemy bomb makers may have been using and collecting evidence such as plastic gloves, containers and samples of ingredients.
"It's good to get out of the office to train and actually learn," said Spc. Nick Schroeder, 663rd Ord. "The contractor has the training aids down to the Oriental rugs."
"We brought six pallets, weighing just under 5,000 pounds," said Chuck Schaaf, team lead, AT Solutions. "The more realistic you make it, the better it will be. That way when they get into theater, it will be second nature."
A retired Navy EOD technician, Schaaf said he trains civilian bomb techs, but he enjoys working with the military.
"I'm able to give back to young warfighters going into harm's way," he said.
Combat-tested Soldiers said the training was helpful.
"I didn't receive this training prior to the last deployment. It would have been beneficial," said Sgt. Matt Hawkins, 663rd Ord., adding that he joined his unit after the training had been conducted. "Identifying how to differentiate between chemicals gives us a better idea of how to adapt to the situation at hand."