By Senior Airman Jessica H. Smith, 18th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 19, 2018
Dirtboys from the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron dig a hole as members from the 18th CES Explosive Ordnance Disposal team discuss plans for the day March 14, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The Dirtboys work with the EOD team to ensure explosives are safely disposed of. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica H. Smith)
Often times, when people think of explosive ordnance disposal teams, they think of a scene out of Hurt Locker – an American hero to be, a selfless soul in a bomb suit ready to risk it all for their comrades and country. Although it’s a part of the job, detonating a potentially life-threatening explosive isn’t necessarily the everyday mission; there’s much more to the career field.
For the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD team, the island of Okinawa offers a unique working experience, seeing as how the military installations are built upon the grounds where a war was once fought.
Unsurprisingly so, one to two times a month, EOD is called out to recover and properly dispose of older ordnance such as hand grenades and projectile mortars still being discovered on the island, explained Staff Sgt. Preston Brooks, 18th CES EOD journeyman.
When called out to a site, EOD takes control and recommends appropriate actions – whether it be a hand grenade or a nuke—they’re the experts.
Their expertise doesn’t come easily, however. After a preliminary course and seven to eight months of technical school training there’s still much to learn for those determined to be successful within their career field.
“The entire time all you’re doing is studying and then, as soon as you get out of there, you actually realize that you have to keep studying,” explained Senior Airman Anthony Beschi, 18th CES EOD apprentice. “There’s a whole other world that you don’t even know about when it comes to everything you have to know for EOD.”
When they’re not handling explosives, they’re replicating the experience as much as possible through in-house training and studying.
“At all times you’re training, you’re trying to learn the next thing because you can never know enough information – it’s a constant learning process,” Beschi said.
While the training may be rigorous, it can also be quite fun practicing different styles of demolition to include properly disposing of – blowing up – expired, deteriorating, unstable or just generally unsafe munitions, he explained.
Although yelling ‘fire in the hole’ and pulling the pin to detonate a bomb can be an adrenaline rush, the job isn’t just fun and games – it’s a lot of hard work and commitment, requiring readiness at all times, explained Beschi.
Not only do they train to become more knowledgeable, but also – bluntly put – practice staying alive.
Despite the risks that come with the job – the 18th CES EOD Airmen all find joy in what they do.
“My job’s a blast,” jested Brooks. “I joined the Air Force with a contract for EOD and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. You’ll never know enough, and I think that chase for knowledge, figuring out a better way to do everything we do … because our mission sets are so diverse – that’s the exciting part – I’ll never know it all.”