Operation Llama Fury: Joint base training aims to standardize AFSC

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brittain Crolley
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airmen from three nearby bases descended upon Seymour Johnson Air Force Base for Operation Llama Fury, a weeklong training operation, Aug. 24-28.

Teams from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; and Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, participated in the training and competed against each other to promote cohesion and standardization across the EOD career field.

"Operation Llama Fury was a training opportunity for us to try to standardize the way we do things as EOD techs," said Master Sgt. Tracy Passerotti, the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD flight NCO in charge. "It gave us a chance to work on a lot of our training fundamentals, as well as teamwork and crosstalk for the different EOD flights attending."

The week began much as it would in a deployed environment, where EOD units from multiple bases are teamed together to form a unified unit downrange. The teams conducted a quick meet and greet, went over several safety procedures specific to the base's facilities, and discussed the strategy for the week ahead.

The rest of the day was spent familiarizing the inbound units with the F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft. According to Passerotti, it's common for EOD technicians to deploy downrange and be tasked to respond to aircraft they've never seen before. Instead of getting spun up through books and diagrams, the crews were given firsthand training by the 4th CES EOD team.

"When you're sourced for a deployment, you may go and support aircraft you have never seen before," Passerotti said. "So what we're trying to do by bringing all these other units in is give them a chance to actually get their hands on the jet and train with some of its munitions configurations."

The next two days featured a multitude of scenarios the three-man teams ran through, including responding to improvised explosive device and unexploded ordnance threats, practicing basic demolition techniques, and reacting to F-15E munition emergencies. The Airmen were given general guidance on each setup, but relied upon past experiences and training to choose the best methods to complete each task.

"EOD is unique in that no two responses are ever the same," Passerotti said. "You could give ten teams a scenario and you're going to see ten different ways of getting it done. What's great about that is you get out of your own mindset of how things have to be done and see a different perspective that can help you down the road."

On the final day, teams were pitted against each other to see who could accomplish a concluding set of scenarios in the most efficient and safest manner possible.

The day time portion saw teams vie for supremacy in four challenges to earn the best gear for the nighttime operations. With night vision goggles and flashlights "purchased," the teams set out on a trek across the EOD training range to put their knowledge and skillsets to the ultimate test.

The team from Seymour Johnson AFB won the final challenge, but every Airman who was able to participate came away with the real prize of knowledge.

"The training we're getting here is exceptional," said Airman 1st Class Josh Holbrook, an 11th CES EOD technician. "Everything is real, and we're doing it by the book how it's going to be if we encounter it in person. I'm just finishing upgrade training and getting into my 5-level certifications, so this (training) is going to help me get signed off on the majority of the things I have left."

According to the operation planners, the training event was a huge success and far exceeded their expectations.

Master Sgt. Roger Hughes, the 4th CES EOD logistics chief, said he hopes the event's success leads to it becoming an annual event held at other bases to expose the Airmen to different facilities and training ranges and further standardize training.

Excluding travel expenses, the entire operation was accomplished at no cost to the government. Hughes and Passerotti plan to push for funding for future events, to provide an even better experience.

"Training opportunities like this can be hard to come by, so we take advantage of them whenever we can," Hughes said. "That way we can operate in a safer manner so that we can not only protect the surrounding area, but we can also protect ourselves."