EOD training updates expected to increase retention, improve mission readiness

  • Published
  • By Jess Echerri
  • Air Force Civil Engineering Center Public Affairs
The explosive ordnance disposal division of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center's Readiness Directorate here, in collaboration with Air Education and Training Command, is refining and upgrading the curriculum of three courses in order to produce more EOD Airmen, and ensure balanced mission capability across the Air Force.

To become an EOD Airman, a candidate must go through the Air Force’s EOD preliminary course and Navy School EOD. Historically, the EOD technical training program had a 75 percent attrition rate. This means, for every 500 Airmen enrolled in the program, the Air Force will gain an average of 125 EOD Airmen.

"The career field requires at least 134 graduates per year," said Chief Master Sgt. Martin Cortez, the EOD career field manager. "That's not sustainable with the current attrition."

Approved by Cortez, an EOD preliminary course training standard was developed by course instructors and Donald Williams, the AETC EOD training manager. The intent of the new curriculum is to better prepare EOD candidates for the academic challenges at Navy School EOD and to possibly increase EOD Airmen production rates. Williams plans for the new curriculum to be in place by November 2015.

"The intent isn't to weed people out," said Senior Master Sgt. Edward Lockhart, the EOD operations and training program manager. "We ultimately want to reduce attrition while maintaining quality."

A constant change in mission priorities has also driven changes in EOD training. The actions and threats that drove Operation Enduring Freedom initiated an evolution of Air Force EOD that continued for 14 years. About 10 years ago, EOD Airmen supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom started combating the improvised explosive device threat outside base boundaries in a mounted mission unlike any before. About five years ago, the OEF and OIF missions morphed and EOD Airmen began combating IEDs on foot with minimal equipment and protection.

With the steady change in objectives across the globe, EOD Airmen have been sprinting to keep up while maintaining their knowledge in all mission areas, Lockhart said.

To support these objectives and better meet the needs of the career field, the EOD career development course is also being transformed. The current career development course program relies on written content that is difficult to keep up-to-date with the career field's ever-changing tactics, techniques and procedures. A new plan was developed by the EOD CDC writer and other AFCEC EOD personnel to create a dynamic learning experience that retains the overall course construct while replacing the written content with driven study using source references.

Although implementation timeframes haven't been determined yet, personnel in AFCEC's EOD division are determined to accomplish this transformation as soon as possible.

Various advanced courses, which EOD Airmen must also complete during their careers, are also evolving.

One of the most dramatic changes made is the transformation of the seven-level craftsman course to an EOD team leader course. Originally the course was a classroom-taught class, students will now learn in a hands-on environment by leading simulated exercises at a training site at Sheppard AFB, Texas.

Instituting the changes was initially estimated to cost over $5 million, but was reduced to less than $3 million after analysis and repositioning of existing assets. The cost is well worth the results, Lockhart said.

"A lot of the operations we run are high risk," he said. "The effects are catastrophic if we fail. Our results are either initial success or total failure."

With a curriculum that will be mostly performance-based, EOD Airmen will be taught and evaluated on EOD in-garrison incident leadership skills including: aircraft; unexploded ordnance; IED; and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear responses.

The implementation of the EOD team leader course curriculum is planned for January 2016.