MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- “Initial success or total failure” is the motto fueling explosive ordnance disposal Airmen to accept nothing less than perfection in and out of uniform.
The 35th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) flight’s mission is to clear hazards by locating, identifying and neutralizing explosive devices in order for base operations to continue, especially during wartime contingencies.
“Our primary mission is to clear the runway first and get our F-16 Fighting Falcons in the air to fight and defend the U.S. and Japan,” said Staff Sgt. Tanner Connally, a 35th CES EOD journeyman.
Ensuring the team can accomplish this mission encompasses a few different components, but one of the baseline requirements is physical fitness. EOD members are required to work out a minimum of five days a week for an hour to meet the Tier 2 physical fitness test requirements, superseding the traditional physical standards.
The test includes a timed 1.5-mile run, 1,000-meter row, 20-pound medicine ball toss, overhead and sideways, grip strength test, hex-bar deadlift, pull-ups, cross-knee crunches to a metronome at 56 beats per minute until failure, a farmer’s carry with two 50-pound sandbags (one in each hand) for 100 meters, the gruseter and a 3-inch square-bar static hold.
“Excellence in all we do is a core value that pushes us to keep up with our physical training,” said Connally. “This test helps EOD Airmen be more physically prepared for real world situations.”
The physical standards force the EOD Airmen to train in the most intense environment possible and help create real world scenarios the team could potentially experience when operating in a deployed environment.
“I try to mesh my experiences from back in the day into our training scenarios in order to have the Airmen understand the level of duress they could be under,” said Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Bobzin, the 35th CES EOD flight chief. “Ultimately, we do research on current and emerging trends to ensure our training is as realistic as possible, so our Airmen can be well equipped and have the experience needed to operate in a stressful environment.”
These EOD Airmen understand the lives of others are at stake when their team is called into action.
“The opportunity to save a life through the EOD profession provides me purpose,” said Bobzin. “We all want to save as many people as we can, and we take the responsibility very seriously. We know a single mistake could cost us our lives or the lives of others, so we always train with that in mind.”
Due to the wide variety of IED tactics enemies use, the team constantly reinvents the way they train ensuring they’re prepared for any situation.
“Tactics are always changing and we need to be ahead of our adversaries when it comes to this,” said Tech Sgt. Gerald Barker, the 35th CES EOD equipment NCO in charge. “The best way to stay on top of our game is to continuously train and look for ways where we can be better.”
According to Barker, the shop will spend nearly 20 hours a week preparing for simulated, deployed environments.
EOD personnel work together with reconnaissance robots to help locate, disarm and remove IEDs. The robot is equipped with several television cameras for remote viewing and a dexterous arm for hazardous tasks.
“The F6A robot helps us dispose of simulated explosives, ensuring we receive the proper training needed to operate efficiently during wartime contingencies,” said Connally. “This kind of training also is for our safety, mitigating the danger we can face when we are called into action.”
One of the main responsibilities of this EOD team is to conduct a range clearance, which is the removal of inert bomb debris from Misawa’s F-16 Fighting Falcons training at Draughon Range. The EOD team clears the range to make sure the F-16s can practice the suppression of enemy air defense mission.
“Being well-trained, prepared and ready for any scenario is how we deter our adversaries,” said Connally. “Our ability to quickly and confidently respond is how we show them they can’t get a foot hold here.”
The day-to-day training conducted by the EOD members contributes to the overall wing readiness by ensuring these Airmen are equipped to secure the base from any explosives.
“Our ability to quickly deem an area safe and secure helps our wing generate aircraft at a fast-pace,” said Bobzin. “By making our enemies second-guess their tactics, we can always be one step ahead of them.”