IEDs, UXOs no match for EOD
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Whether a faulty 9mm pistol round or a pipe bomb meant to cause harm, there is one shop that holds the responsibility of disarming and disposing of these dangerous objects.
With their extensive and rigorous training, the Airmen from the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight protect the Airmen and families here from any explosive threat.
"Our primary mission is to keep the planes flying and the base safe," said Senior Airman Gabriel Baerwald, 51st CES EOD technician. "In order to do that, we ensure the flightline is free of any [improvised explosive devices]."
Upon notification of an explosive threat, an EOD team moves in to determine how to disarm the device or munition and disposes as quick and safe as possible.
"When an [A-10 Thunderbolt II] or [F-16 Fighting Falcon] has a damaged rocket or if a crash occurs, we go out and alleviate any danger," he added.
After finding and disabling an IED or unexploded ordnance, EOD stores them to later perform controlled detonations in a secured area.
However, being so close to the explosives is a risk these battlefield Airmen take sometimes to ensure the safety of the base.
"Technology is always evolving, as well as our threats, so we have to improve our processes and equipment as well," said Baerwald. "Danger is to be expected in this line of work, so we need to be ready."
To keep up with the demand of the Air Force, EOD uses top-tier equipment to keep Airmen out of harm's way while deployed or at home station. They use a wide array of tools to help them identify explosives and perform controlled detonations,
"We [can] use F-6A robots, Air Force medium sized robots, [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected] vehicles and bomb suits to keep us safe during [bomb] disposal," said Baerwald.
Even with all the tools and advanced technology available, the EOD flight still conducts annual safety stand-down days. This helps remove some of the worry that comes with the critical and dangerous mission these Airmen hold.
"We provide support to the airfield combat, so we need to look out for ourselves and each other," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Overton, 51st CES EOD logistics section chief. "We host safety days to open the forum for Airmen to discuss and reassess past incidents in the career field."
Along with safety, training is critical in a battlefield Airman's development according to Overton. EOD training usually consists of deployed IED scenarios, mine detection and electronic countermeasures.
"Most [of our Airmen] are here for only a year, so we have to compress our training plans," said Overton.
"This assignment can prove to be a challenge [due to the training aspects] for some because of the high ops tempo," he added. "But we have to remain vigilant for any situation."
Osan holds the largest overseas unaccompanied housing and has a high operations tempo, the EOD flight's Airmen say they grow closer throughout the process.
"Our EOD shop here is a tight brotherhood," said Baerwald. "We train together and we fight together, which is why we get the mission done."
At the end of the day, this 'tight brotherhood' continues to provide a critical service for the safety and security of all Airmen.