CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. --
Air National Guard Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians from the 148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard; 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard; 166th Airlift Wing, Delaware Air National Guard and the 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard gathered for an Advanced Conventional Course at Camp Ripley Training Center, Minnesota, September 20-24, 2021.
EOD technicians are trained to detect, disarm and dispose of explosive threats in the most extreme environments. EOD technicians are the Air National Guard’s equivalent to a bomb squad.
The user-designed course was created to provide realistic scenarios recently identified in the EOD Master Training Plan. “We’ve had many IED-focused training events, and this Advanced Convention Course allowed us the opportunity to look at and train on different conventional ordnance scenarios or tasks”, said Master Sgt. Mark Hilleren, 148th Fighter Wing Explosive Ordnance Disposal team leader. IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, are bombs constructed in different ways that conventional military action. Roadside bombs are the most common example on an IED.
One such scenario is called lodge projectile training. “Rounds can get stuck or jammed in a weapons system”, said Hilleren. “If you can get the round out, you can protect the weapons systems”, he added. During the Advanced EOD Conventional Course, EOD technicians worked through scenarios that required them to remove rounds from a 20mm barrel from a M61A1, 30mm barrel that came from an A-10 aircraft and 105mm barrel from a M60 tank.
It takes planning and fortitude to create effective events. “We want to train on as many scenarios as we can before we go to the battlefield”, said Hilleren a 18-year Veteran who’s deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility three times. The Advanced Conventional Course was a collaborative event. Technicians from the 166th Airlift Wing created a 3D-printed lodge projective removal tools. Airmen from the 148th Civil Engineering Squadron built realistic projectiles from timbers. Likewise, the team repurposed old tanks in the impact area of Camp Ripley to facilitate the training. Impact areas are secure zones with designated boundaries that enable safe detonation of explosives.
EOD technicians also conducted technical intelligence field evaluations. These evaluations allowed technicians to explore an impact area, identify rounds and develop render safe procedures. The following day, technicians deployed their newly developed render safe procedures on live ordnance in the impact area. “Having the opportunity to use different tools on live munitions allows technicians better understand how they work and what they’re capable of when we’re called upon to use them,” said Master Sgt. Aaron Weber of the 166th Airlift Wing, Delaware Air National Guard. Weber, who has deployed three times to Afghanistan, also noted the exercise “fostered teamwork by pairing technicians from different units who were not used to working with each other.”
Thirteen Airmen from four Air National Guard Wings learned new perspectives in a realist military training environment. Camp Ripley, just outside of Little Falls, Minnesota is a 53,000-acre training center featuring firing, tank and gunnery ranges plus specialized areas for a variety of combat readiness training.