Advanced EOD Conventional Course provides confidence and validation

  • Published
  • By Audra Flanagan
  • 148th Fighter Wing

The 148th Fighter Wing Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Flight created and hosted an advanced conventional course for 30 technicians at the Minnesota National Guard’s Camp Ripley Training Center, Little Falls, Minn, Sept. 18-22, 2023.

The advanced course focused on the five lines of effort required to execute EOD’s strategic vision to include restore readiness, invest in technology, drive innovation, develop and retain leaders and partnerships.

Mitigating the hazards of explosive materials and other weapons requires precision and skill. EOD technicians undertake dangerous missions in diverse and unforgiving locales worldwide. They work in teams to employ special tools and vehicles to safely locate, identify, recover, disarm, and dispose of dangerous weapons that threaten people, property, and natural environments.

“We had members from the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, Air Force and Navy attend this course,” said the Air National Guard Functional Area Manager, Capt. Ana Smith. “Bringing technicians from different components and services allows us to share knowledge widely. Attendees can take what they learned to their units which multiplies the value of the course.”

Two technicians from Wisconsin National State Partners, Papua New Guinea also attended the training. “Our Papa New Guinea partners were pleased with the training opportunity afforded to them at Camp Ripley. They were able to practice what had only been trained in theory,” said 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, EOD Flight Superintendent, Senior Master Sgt. Erich Sanford.

The course was held at the Leach Impact Area within Camp Ripley provided technicians the opportunity to use diverse tools on live ordnance. Impact areas are designated areas with boundaries where ordnance can be safely detonated. “The curriculum is designed for all technicians to use unexploded ordnance so they can troubleshoot realistic problems they could see when called upon,” said 148th EOD Flight Superintendent and advanced course designer, Master Sgt. Mark Hilleren.

EOD Technicians, divided into five small teams, spent time identifying unexploded ordnance using reconnaissance techniques, x-ray interpretation and technical data. Upon identifying the rounds, they developed render safe procedures for the live ordnance. “Adaptability is the key to survivability in EOD and working with other units in a team environment is the best way to shift and share our perspectives,” said Sanford.

“Teams spent a day testing an assortment of explosives and charges to understand their effects,” said Hilleren. “We allow teams the opportunity to get exposure to our entire explosive inventory and the space and freedom to practice varying techniques and affects and against actual targets.”

M60 tanks were used to allow teams to remove large caliber projectiles from 105mm barrels as part of the lodged projectile removal, and access, and recovery segment of training. “If a weapons system, such as an F-16 or A-10, experiences a jam or lodged projectile, and EOD team could be called to remove the projectile which allows the equipment to be put back in service,’ said Hilleren.

The advanced course ended with a day-long protective works segment. Teams were tasked to protect structures, built by 148th Civil Engineering Squadron personnel, from live ordnance. Technicians used technical data and publications to guide them using sandbag mitigation techniques and earth shock precautions. When the teams completed their protective projects, actual rounds were detonated next to the structures to test the effectiveness of their designs.

“All United States EOD technicians attend the same initial schooling and operate using the same publications,” said Smith, “However, the services fill different operational roles. Further, each EOD flight has a slightly different focus depending on the mission of their base. Because of this, technicians have differing level of hands-on experience with various procedures. The training environment at Camp Ripley allowed us to conduct realistic training that capitalized on the real-world knowledge of EOD technicians from different backgrounds”.

This was the third time the 148th Fighter Wing EOD Flight planned and executed this course at Camp Ripley. The advanced course is continuously evolving to suit the needs of technicians and the evolving threats they face at home and abroad.