“Fire in the hole!” yelled Sgt. Cecil Vaden, team 3-1 team leader for 722nd Ordnance Company, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, 192nd Ordnance Battalion EOD. Moments later a loud boom filled the air as C4 detonated and disabled an improvised explosive device.
This was an EOD team performing a simulated mission during a field training exercise at training area HH3 from April 11 to 18.
The 722nd Ord. Co., EOD used the Joint Asymmetric Threat Awareness and Counter Improvise Explosive Device Training Program to provide realistic, scenario-based training to their Soldiers. JATAC instructors provided up-to-date, counter-IED training, tactics, techniques and procedures used in Afghanistan during the two-week exercise.
“They are getting more intricate and elaborate,” said Vaden. “We try to be one step ahead and change it up as much as possible.”
Leaders also provided essential learning opportunities to their Soldiers during team leader-down drills. Leaders would simulate stepping on pressure plate improvised explosive devices or being hit with fragmentary charges causing team members to perform emergency medical procedures and run the scenario without their leadership.
Teams were broken down into team leaders, senior team members and team members. Team leaders go through rigorous EOD core tasks training.
“We get a great benefit from this,” said Capt. Sean Zion, 722nd Ord. Co., EOD commander. “When these guys get humbled and see the real consequences, it sticks with you. You put that in your book for later and you keep on rolling.”
One of the key pieces of equipment EOD Soldiers use during the training is the talon robot that can conduct reconnaissance by remote control and travel through sand, water, snow and even up stairs.
“It keeps us remote,” said Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Steinepreis, Team 2-3 team leader for 722nd Ord. Co. EOD. “It keeps us away from the actual improvised explosive device since they (the robot) can place charges.”
Annual field training exercises are only a small piece of EOD training. Soldiers attend advanced individual training for 49 weeks and learn skills on electricity fundamentals, munitions identification and hazards, demolition materials, procedures and operations, and chemical and biological ordnance and operations.
The Soldiers of the 722nd Ord. Co. used this training during their exercise. Technicians handled C4 regularly and conducted controlled detonations using up to four pounds of the explosive per scenario as required. They had to identify the explosive and follow procedures to ensure they disabled the devices safely.
“Everyone has a different way of doing things,” said Pvt. 1st Class Blake Keniston, Team 1-1 team member. From what I’ve heard from instructors at school and some of the team leaders here, what we are dealing with now is different from anything we really had before.”
The 722nd Ord. Co., EOD will assume the homeland defense mission in June. They will respond to incidents on Fort Bragg and the surrounding area, which includes the entire state of North Carolina.
Remaining proficient in EOD core tasks is not only mission essential, it is a matter of life and death for 722 Ord. Co., EOD technicians. “If you are not confident in your decisions, then you are going to falter,” said Steinepreis.