EOD: No room for error

  • Published
  • By Raquel Sanchez
  • Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The job of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airman requires precision, attention to detail and ability to work under pressure. While most jobs may leave room for error, one mistake could mean the difference between life and death for an EOD Airman.

The 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airmen are an elite group of highly-trained technicians known for their expertise in dealing with improvised explosive devices.

"It takes a special breed of Airman to seek out an explosive device and put himself in harm's way for the sake of making the place safer for fellow service members and innocent bystanders," said Col. James Slife, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing.

These Airmen are ground combatants who deploy as EOD and support all branches of service. In combat locations, fellow service members rely on their expertise to get them through potentially dangerous situations.

Their motto, "Initial Success or Total Failure," are words to live by especially when an explosive surprise can literally await these Airmen when called for duty.

IED's are a constant threat for deployed service members overseas and have claimed the lives of 16 EOD Airmen since 9-11. Despite the dangers that lay before them, these Airmen willingly volunteer to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Air Force.

If asked, EOD any Airmen would tell you they are all family and have chosen this career because of its impact on the mission and safety to other comrades.

"To give up on my job would be to give up on my brothers, my family," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Milliken, 1st SOCES, EOD technician. "When we are deployed they are my family."

Training is an essential part of the job especially in a career where there's no room for error. Hurlburt EOD Airmen participate in training at least twice a quarter to hone their skills and prepare for deployments.

During training, EOD Airmen spend time practicing skills needed for the homefront and when deployed. C4, TNT, electric taps, shape chargers and dynamite were among the controlled explosives detonated during training.

"There are a lot of small lessons to be learned and to stay current on," Milliken said.

One false move can make the difference of whether or not that Airman goes home at night. Training helps the team prepare for a series of real-world scenarios. It allows Airmen to analyze the types of IED's that are being used by insurgents at deployed locations.

For the newest EOD Airmen, who have not yet deployed in combat locations, training is especially important. For Airmen 1st Class Thomas Johnson and Clifton McGowan, it's an opportunity for them to get hands-on experience that goes beyond what they have learned in EOD training school.

This line of work may not be ideal for most, but for Johnson and McGowan volunteering for EOD was easy because it was not just some job, it was a physical and mental challenge.

Although the nature of their job is dangerous they continue to put themselves in harm's way for others. They each take pride in what they do and for many on the team, volunteering for EOD was also a personal responsibility. That's the type of mentality it takes to be an EOD Airman.

"If I have the ability to do the job then I have the responsibility," McGowan said referring to why he has chosen to be an EOD Airmen. Milliken shared the same sentiments, "If I don't do my job it leaves one of these other guys to do it."