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Focus under fire: EOD keeps troops safe

The mission of the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight is to reduce or eliminate conventional ordnance, improvised explosive devices, and chemical, biological and nuclear threats to personnel and property. It is a crucial mission with room for more. Currently, the EOD team has positions available for four dedicated Reservists. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Madelyn McCullough)

The mission of the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight is to reduce or eliminate conventional ordnance, improvised explosive devices, and chemical, biological and nuclear threats to personnel and property. It is a crucial mission with room for more. Currently, the EOD team has positions available for four dedicated Reservists. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Madelyn McCullough)

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. (AFNS) -- In the mountains of Afghanistan, embedded with Soldiers, an Airman works to remove an improvised explosive device from the side of the road. While trying to concentrate, his group comes under fire, forcing him to fire back as he continues his task. Somehow, despite the pressure he is under, he is able to think clearly enough to remove the explosive that was designed to kill him and his team.

In Afghanistan, the mountains are jacketed with improvised explosive devices, one of the biggest killers of troops in the war. Pinpointing the hidden explosives is not easy, but removing them saves lives. That's exactly what a well-trained explosive ordnance disposal technician knows how to do.

The mission of EOD is to reduce or eliminate conventional ordnance, IEDs, and chemical, biological and nuclear threats to personnel and property.

EOD is challenging work. The requirements push people both mentally and physically, yet many EOD technicians say they love what they do and couldn't have chosen a better Air Force career.

"It takes a lot of work to get in, but once you're there, there is nothing better," said Tech. Sgt. Shawn Lundgren, an EOD technician with the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight. "It's second to none."

According to the Air Force website, EOD is a dangerous job that requires a great deal of knowledge and exacting attention to detail, but it's also an incredibly important job that only the best of the best can accomplish.

"Recruiting is very hard now because of the standards they have set to become EOD," said Master Sgt. Travis Hargitt, the EOD program manager for the explosive ordnance disposal flight.

To become an EOD, applicants must be over 5 feet 2 inches and under 6 feet 3 inches tall to wear the bomb suit. They must be able to dead lift 80 pounds above their head and complete three pull-ups, 55 sit-ups and 58 push-ups. The physical agility test also demands a mile-and-a-half run to be accopmplished in under 11 minutes.

"It's being able to take in a lot of information at once, process it, make a decision, and execute it," Hargitt said.

Becoming a qualified EOD technician can take as long as two years. A new Airman is required to go through 23 weeks of technical school.

"It's probably one of the hardest enlisted tech schools in the Department of Defense," said Hargitt.

Even so, many EOD technicians agree it is a very rewarding job.

"It's a job that provides a lot of satisfaction with a lot of personal dedication," he said.

The EOD technicians usually deploy one year out of every four, but many volunteer for more. Some will even go through back-to-back deployments. Hargitt has been an EOD technician for 20 years and has completed nine deployments. Lundgren has been on one deployment and volunteered for his second before his three-year break finished.

"You never go to practice for practice," Lundgren said. "You go to practice for the game. It's an opportunity for me to play in the game."

Even though Airmen in the career are passionate about their jobs, many circumstances have created a shortage in manning for the unit. Only 12 of the 18 possible slots are filled. For those who are interested, the opportunity to go into this career field is wide open.

For more information call (253)982-4938 or visit http://www.airforce.com/careers/detail/explosive-ordnance-disposal-eod.