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EOD Airmen detect, disarm, protect

Senior Airman Rito Smith

Staff Sgt. Joshua Holbrook, a 753rd Ordnance Company explosive ordnance disposal technician displays the capability to use robots for reconnaissance Feb. 3, 2019. Holbrook is one of three Airmen assigned to work with an Army EOD team to support the Train Advise Assist Command-South mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rito Smith)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- The Joint Defense Operations Center calls about a confirmed or suspected explosive ordnance disposal incident. Three Airmen rush out the door, set up their truck and immediately depart for the incident site. They head out with a security element to safely transport them to the location. For them it is now an information game and race against time.

“It is a constant cat and mouse game where everyone is constantly evolving,” said Staff Sgt. Drew Tesser, a 753rd Ordnance Company EOD technician at Kandahar Airfield. “We need every bit of information we can get from long range reconnaissance before we make a hard decision to disarm or detonate the suspected improvised explosive device.”

The team utilizes different types of equipment from remote controlled robots to small unmanned aerial systems to provide reconnaissance on a potential hazard site.

“My biggest job is to try and keep the guys in the truck and not have them get out and go to the hazard site,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Holbrook, the equipment manager assigned to the 753rd Ordnance Company. “We can use our robot to scout out the area for potential wires or pressure plates, as well as using our unmanned aerial system to get a bird’s eye view of the area before making the decision to go down to the site.”

These technicians’ jobs consist of protecting the service members at Kandahar by doing route clearance patrols and flightline support. They are also responsible for supporting the Train Advise Assist Command – South mission by traveling with an advisory package to ensure the locals are trained properly to protect their country from potential improvised explosive device hazards.

“Our job is to make sure we keep people safe,” said Tech. Sgt. Alexander Blair, team leader assigned to the 753rd Ordnance Company. “Safety is the most important thing; I will never put my life or the team’s lives in danger.”

Once the call comes in, the team goes to the site to assess the situation and detonate the hazard in a controlled area.

“First we try and disarm the device, then if we can blow it up safely where it is at then we will,” said Blair. “If there’s a risk to anybody or anything, then we will move it to a safe location before detonating it.”

Tesser, Holbrook and Blair also collect as much evidence from the scene as they can to send to the ACME Lab at Bagram Airfield to process DNA and fingerprints.

Military members are not the only people affected by IEDs—the Airmen’s mission to disarm these hazards saves lives for the local populace as well.

“Sometimes IEDs are placed near civilians that don’t want any part of it, and we get to go out and make things safer for them and for our guys on the ground,” Blair said.

“Everything we do is motivated by our goal of helping people,” he added. “For me, going into a dangerous situation and being the solutions to saving lives is what motivates me to be out here every day.”

The EOD Airmen operationally report to the Army at TAAC-South, but administratively fall under the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram. The wing’s 955th Air Expeditionary Squadron is responsible for ensuring hundreds of Airmen working with joint and interagency partners across Afghanistan receive the Air Force-specific support they need.

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