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EOD: Keeping Airmen, community safe

Staff Sgt. Ace and Senior Airman Paola, both explosive ordnance disposal technicians, strategize their movement while on foot patrol during a training exercise Dec. 30, 2014, in Southwest Asia. Airmen who work in the EOD flight are required to think outside the box and accept nothing less than perfection when performing their duties. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown)

Staff Sgt. Ace and Senior Airman Paola, both explosive ordnance disposal technicians, strategize their movement while on foot patrol during a training exercise Dec. 30, 2014, in Southwest Asia. Airmen who work in the EOD flight are required to think outside the box and accept nothing less than perfection when performing their duties. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown)

Staff Sgt. Ace, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, works to unbury a simulated improvised explosive device during a training exercise Dec. 30, 2014, in Southwest Asia. EOD Airmen train on IEDs and suicide bomber scenarios as well as suspicious packages and suspicious vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown)

Staff Sgt. Ace, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, works to unbury a simulated improvised explosive device during a training exercise Dec. 30, 2014, in Southwest Asia. EOD Airmen train on IEDs and suicide bomber scenarios as well as suspicious packages and suspicious vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown)

Staff Sgt. Ace, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, uses a metal detector to scan the area for a simulated improvised explosive device during a training exercise Dec. 30, 2014, in Southwest Asia. EOD Airmen are tasked with clearing munitions and enabling base operations to resume, such as clearing the airfield and creating an airstrip to get aircraft back in the air in order to provide defense. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown)

Staff Sgt. Ace, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, uses a metal detector to scan the area for a simulated improvised explosive device during a training exercise Dec. 30, 2014, in Southwest Asia. EOD Airmen are tasked with clearing munitions and enabling base operations to resume, such as clearing the airfield and creating an airstrip to get aircraft back in the air in order to provide defense. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown)

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- The motto, “initial success or total failure,” requires Airmen of the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) flight here to think outside the box and accept nothing less than perfection when performing their duties.

The EOD mission is to locate, identify and neutralize explosive devices. They are tasked with clearing explosive hazards and enabling base operations to resume as quickly and safely as possible. One example would be clearing the airfield after an attack and creating an airstrip to get aircraft back in the air.

“Our primary tasks here are to enhance the force protection of the base and in turn, keep the planes in the air,” said Staff Sgt. Ace, an EOD technician, currently deployed from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. “Our support for the air taskings allows our commanders to engage the enemy through the air and win the fight.”

EOD’s support to air operations includes providing expertise on any of the myriad of explosive hazards found on modern aircraft. From the actual weapons, to the rocket motors on the ejection seats, EOD is ready to diffuse a full spectrum of explosive situations.

Protecting the base requires every EOD technician to maintain focus on the threat at hand. To ensure their training is as up to date as possible, the team trains on scenarios encountered in the past, as well as current scenarios based on reports from the frontlines.

“Just like anywhere else, we focus our attention on the threat we believe to be the most credible and imminent, and we train based upon that threat,” Ace said. “We train on anything that pertains to our job to make us better and more proficient.”

According to Ace, the mission here is very similar to that of a stateside base. The support from other base agencies is outstanding and provides a much welcomed relief from some of the physical, emotional and psychological stress of a typical EOD deployment elsewhere.

Training on average up to 30 hours a week, the EOD team focuses on flightline support, conventional, chemical, biological munitions and improvised explosive devices. A large portion of that time is dedicated to building the physical and emotional capability to perform this dangerous mission during “outside the wire” combat.

Finally, EOD trains for the deadly and unpredictable IED, the terrorist’s asymmetric weapon of choice. These devices, which have been extensively utilized by insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, have caused thousands of casualties, and EOD continuously trains to stay proficient in defeating this dynamic threat.

“We are another piece of the puzzle when it comes to the installation’s base defense,” Ace said. “We work as a team with the fire department, emergency management and security forces military working dog handlers to ensure all explosive threats are disposed of safely and properly.”

The main reason the team trains so often is due to the possible outcomes that could occur if they fail to make the right call while on a mission.

“If we are not up to date on training, the end result could be catastrophic,” Ace said. “The world is an unstable place, and there is a potential for any of our teams to go anywhere at any time.”

While the team trains for the toughest conditions, they don’t ignore what could happen if a real-world attack should occur.

“It feels good to be able to learn from training and being able to say we defeated the IED, suspect package or whatever the threat was, which in turn, potentially saved someone’s life," said Senior Airman Christopher, an EOD journeyman, currently deployed from McChord Air Force Base, Washington.

Few career fields give Airmen the instant gratification EOD technicians get every time they successfully complete a mission.

"If EOD was not here and there was a real need for base recovery, the runway wouldn't be cleared and planes wouldn't be able to fly," Ace said. "Our job in almost every scenario is to return the base back to normal operations and keep people safe. This is why we are so focused on training -- so that when the call comes we can deliver. Being an EOD technician is a challenging but extremely rewarding profession."

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