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    Soldiers test mettle at 20th CBRNE Command Best Squad Competition on Fort Campbell

    Soldiers test mettle at 20th CBRNE Command Best Squad Competition on Fort Campbell

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Angel Martinez-Navedo | Soldiers from the U.S. military’s premier all hazards command proved their mettle...... read more read more



    Story by Walter Ham 

    20th CBRNE Command

    FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – American Soldiers from the U.S. military’s premier all hazards command proved their mettle during the Best Squad Competition, May 15 - 19.

    The 52nd Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) squad won the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command Best Squad Competition on Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

    Spc. Jacob Boatman and Sgt. 1st Class Drew Hawley from the 722nd EOD Company, 192nd EOD Battalion, 52nd EOD Group, respectively earned best Soldier and best noncommissioned officer.

    Together with Hawley and Boatman, Sgt. Christopher Brown, Spc. Skyler Sheets and Spc. William Wheat represented the 52nd EOD Group, which commands all active-duty EOD technicians east of the Mississippi River.

    The top squad was from the Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based 722nd EOD Company, part of the 192nd EOD Battalion, 52nd EOD Group and 20th CBRNE Command.

    The 20th CBRNE Command Headquarters and Headquarters Company squad was the runner-up in the competition. Staff Sgt. Ricardo Jasso, Cpl. Keoni Wolford, Spc. Javier Garcia, Spc. Jorge Orta and Spc. Haven Barnes represented the 20th CBRNE Command Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

    The Fort Cavazos, Texas-based 48th Chemical Brigade, the only active-duty chemical brigade in the U.S. Army, was represented by Sgt. Michael Granados, Cpl. Bruce Lome, Cpl. Garrett Hahn, Pfc. Michael Camacho and Pfc. Nicholas Adam.

    The Fort Carson, Colorado-based 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), which commands all active-duty EOD units west of the Mississippi River, was represented by Staff Sgt. Aramis Escobar-Diaz, Sgt. Aidan Fullerton, Spc. Zion Clark, Spc. Keylin Pierce Dunnican and Pfc. Michael Paguirigan.

    The winners will compete at the U.S. Army Forces Command competition.

    Hawley, who is from Jonesville, Michigan, said finding time to train for the competition as a squad was challenging since EOD techs at his company have many real-world missions from providing support to the U.S. Secret Service to training for combat missions.

    “We used whatever available time we had to train on whatever events we thought we could see,” said Hawley. “We were able to train on patrolling with a prior infantry Soldier in our company which ended up being a big help to the team.”

    “In the EOD career field, we are hyper focused on mastering our craft, which is what the Army asks of us and what we will continue to do,” said Hawley, adding that EOD units must be able to support infantry and Special Forces missions. “We need to make time to ensure our EOD techs aren’t only excellent at their job but are also well-rounded in basic Soldier tasks. It was also super fun to show up, give it our all and walk away with a win.”

    The 52nd EOD Group squad trained for land navigation, conducted battle drills and completed the Army Combat Fitness Test a week prior to the competition.

    “When we had 30 minutes or an hour available, we would get the weapons out and practice clear, disassembly, assembly, and functions checks,” said Hawley. “Even during the competition, each night we would conduct a white board walk through of whatever event we knew was coming up. The white board walk throughs were key to staying sharp during the competition.”

    Hawley initially enlisted in the Michigan Army National Guard as a Motor Transport Operator (88M). After spending four years in that job and deploying to Afghanistan, Hawley decided to become an EOD technician.

    “EOD is a small community that has a great culture within the Army,” said Hawley, who has deployed to Niger and Iraq as an EOD team leader. “Between conducting homeland response missions, supporting the U.S. Secret Service, airborne EOD supporting the Immediate Response Force, supporting special operations forces and being experts in all things CBRNE, among countless other things we do, there is a wide variety of mission sets you can do in EOD.”

    A native of Beaumont, California, Spc. Jacob Boatman said he got ready for the competition by focusing on graded events and taking a Combat Lifesaver Course.

    Boatman credited his noncommissioned officers with training the squad on the different tasks.

    The specialist said he welcomed the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Army’s tight-knit Explosive Ordnance Disposal community and he plans to pass on what he learned during the competition to his fellow EOD techs.

    “I became an EOD technician because my recruiter told me that it was one of the most challenging schools the military has to offer,” said Boatman. “I have always been told that nothing in life that is easy is worth doing. I always try to be better than the person I was yesterday, and I try to be better than the person I will be tomorrow.”

    The Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based 52nd Ordnance Group (EOD) hosted the competition with support from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

    The first day of the competition began with inventories and an essay on the meaning of liberty. The competitors then completed an Army Combat Fitness Test followed by a five-question written exam. The world-famous Fort Campbell Air Assault Obstacle Course was the next challenge.

    The second day included an M17 pistol qualification range, a M4 rifle qualification range, timed M240B machine gun assembly test, M240B machine gun qualification, grenade identification test, medical training lanes and land navigation.

    On the third day, the squads were tested with a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) tasks, base operations, an Improvised Explosive Device response, drill and ceremony, grenade training and claymore landmine placement.

    The fourth day concluded with a 12-mile road march, squad patrol lanes and a field board.

    The hard-fought competition came down to the wire and the team and individual winners were determined on the last day.

    Maj. Zach Davis, a nuclear operations officer from 20th CBRNE Command’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Team 5, led the competition.

    Davis thanked the Sabalauski Air Assault School for allowing the competitors to complete a first-rate physical and mental event for the competition.

    The Army major singled out Sgt. 1st Class Robert Lemon’s team of medics at Rascon School of Combat Medicine for also creating excellent medical lanes that gave the competitors invaluable experience to take back to their units. From the 52nd EOD Group, Davis thanked Master Sgt. Thomas Hennig, Capt. Joshua Evers, Sgt. 1st Class Toni Longfor their support.

    “Their team did an excellent job of providing personnel and logistical support to create a competition that was worthwhile and top tier,” said Davis. “I also want to bring attention to Sgt. 1st Class Brian Holmes who served as the competition noncommissioned officer-in-charge and the personnel from the 20th CBRNE Command who put a lot of time and effort into the competition. NCOs are the backbone of the Army and we’re lucky to have great ones in our unit.”

    A native of Alexandria, Alabama, Davis said he became a Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (FA 52) officer because he was interested in nuclear science, math, history and international relations.

    Before serving as a FA 52 officer, Davis was a Civil Affairs team leader in the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he deployed to Afghanistan and Syria.

    “The highlight of the competition was greeting Soldiers and NCOs as they came across the finish line for the 12-mile road march. The road march was the last major physical event, and they were already tired from the last several days,” said Davis.

    “Despite being exhausted, they all pushed through and kept going. I was proud of them for remaining motivated through every event and for staying strong to the end. They should be proud of themselves, too,” said Davis. “The competition was all about testing yourself, and I’m confident they did that.”

    Headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the 20th CBRNE Command is home to 75 percent of the active-duty U.S. Army’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) specialists and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, as well as the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, five Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Teams and three Nuclear Disablement Teams.

    From 19 bases in 16 states, Soldiers and U.S. Army civilians from the 20th CBRNE Command take on the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Dave Silva, the senior enlisted leader for the 20th CBRNE Command, said the squads excelled during the competition.

    “Each and every one performed to such a high level,” said Silva, a native of Long Beach, California, and Master EOD technician. “There was only ‘better’ and ‘best’ in terms of the performance here. Everyone put in their max effort.”



    Date Taken: 05.23.2023
    Date Posted: 05.23.2023 17:14
    Story ID: 445369
    Location: FORT CAMPBELL, KY, US 
    Hometown: ALEXANDRIA, AL, US
    Hometown: BEAUMONT, CA, US
    Hometown: JONESVILLE, MI, US
    Hometown: LONG BEACH, CA, US

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