SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Being the best Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team in the Pacific requires physical fitness, poise under pressure, an extensive knowledge of U.S. and foreign munitions, the confidence to face any challenge, and this year… a pair of totally epic mustaches.
Every year, the best EOD teams in the Pacific meet at Schofield Barracks to compete in the United States Army Pacific (USARPAC) EOD Team of the Year (TOY) competition hosted by the 303rd Ordnance Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.
“The competitors are special because they have been chosen to represent their units or region and compete to be the best in USARPAC,” said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Loban, a planner with the 303rd Ord. BN (EOD).
This year’s competition saw teams from Alaska, Hawaii, and South Korea compete.
“This competition determines who will be representing the Pacific during the Department of the Army (DA) TOY later this year in Virginia,” said Maj. Justin Gerron, the battalion operations officer, 303rd Ord. BN (EOD).
The competition began with two physical fitness tests, a land navigation course, and a weapons qualification which tested basic Soldier skills before transitioning into 16 scenario-based lanes that tested a wide variety of EOD specific tasks.
Gerron believes that some of the most difficult lanes are those that include Chemical/ Biological/ Radiological/Nuclear/Explosive (CBRNE) obstacles due to the additional equipment the team is required to wear.
“Adding the chemical suit and M-50 Protective Mask can affect your decision-making process when you’re out there trying to execute a lane,” added Gerron.
The lane development process incorporated scenarios that were similar to those used at last year’s DA TOY, but also incorporated situations that the teams would likely face stateside and while deployed.
“The lanes were chosen specifically because those are things that you will encounter throughout our EOD career, during team leader certification, and at the DA TOY,” said Gerron.
After six days of competition, the winners were announced at a ceremony on Schofield Barracks, April 20th.
Staff Sgt. Edward (Eddie) Monczynski and Spc. Matthew Ruben, the EOD Team from the 718th ORD CO (EOD) in South Korea, were proclaimed the best EOD Team in the Pacific.
To qualify for the competition, the team first faced off against five other EOD Teams in South Korea in order to earn their place to compete in the USARPAC EOD TOY.
Monczynski and Ruben have only been teammates for a few weeks making preparation for the competition difficult. Monczynski says that his primary goal was evaluating the basics.
Monczynski said that his primary goal was evaluating the basics, “We started with basic tasks; I had to know what he knew so we could move forward.” From there they focused on EOD specific skills.
He added that competing in these types of competitions is a good way to improve individual readiness and develop specific skills.
“The competitions we hold, from the company level up, allow us to evaluate readiness and gives the commander a thermometer of where their Soldiers are in their development,” said Monczynski. “I screwed up a problem [scenario] and identified what I did wrong, but it’s the problems we screw up that stick with us and make us better Soldiers.”
“I’m straight from the school house [Advanced Individual Training] and this is just great additional training for me,” said Ruben.
When asked why he chose EOD as a career, Ruben said, “I love puzzles; I love figuring out how things work and figuring out the mechanics of how things work.”
Monczynski and Ruben will travel to the Department of the Army EOD Team of the Year competition 3 - 8 June 2018 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.