News: Innovative training aids support EOD mission
Story by Tech. Sgt. Vernon Cunningham
By Tech. Sgt. Vernon Cunningham
82nd Training Wing
SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Explosive ordnance disposal technicians are trained to apply classified techniques and special procedures to lessen or remove hazards created by the presence of unexploded military, criminal, biological, nuclear or terrorist homemade ordnance. Sheppard helps provide this training by fabricating high quality EOD training aids for military customers at a low price.
Roberto Huezo, 982nd MXS trainer development flight chief, said the devices that are replicated at the 982nd MXS represent a considerable cost savings to the customer.
"To duplicate a spin rocket for EOD training, even if a private sector were to build it for the Air Force, it would cost around $1,960," Huezo said. "We can build the same spin rocket out of plastic and steel for $365.
"We built 210 different units for the Air Force Reserve Command this fiscal year. The savings total to approximately $72,000."
Last fiscal year, more than 800 EOD students trained with ordnance devices that were replicated by the 982nd Maintenance Squadron at Sheppard.
Mr. Huezo said their main customers are Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and the AFRC.
"For Kirtland Air Force Base, there are a large number of devices we have built for them from a thermal battery pack to containment trainer," said Huezo. "As for the AFRC ordnance, we have approximately 40 different items in our inventory which we provide. Currently, we are preparing 12 different types of projectiles, bombs and [improvised explosive devices] to send to them."
The EOD training ordnance and equipment is not only shipped to Kirtland AFB and the AFRC, but is often distributed across the country and the world.
"The Kirtland EOD trainers have gone across the country to different bases such as Germany and Turkey," Huezo said. "The same goes for all ordnance we give the Air Force Reserve Command. We have shipped items to North Carolina and Florida. We are preparing a shipment to Indiana. From Indiana it will be dispersed across the country and maybe overseas."
Carl Cummings, 982nd MXS engineering technician, said when EOD picks up a piece of ordnance in the field, they bring it to Sheppard and the 982nd MXS duplicates it out of plastic and metal.
Huezo said the trainer development flight tries to duplicate the ordnance as close as possible. He said they look and feel like the real thing, except made out of plastic with some metal parts.
"Adding the detail is very important in the training devices we provide," said Cummings.
"We put as much detail into it as possible so students at EOD training centers can notice these things right off the bat," he said. "We make everything from [rocket propelled grenades] to bombs and mines. Some of these components have springs, three or four parts, internal pieces or may have parts bolted together. We go all the way down to writing marking on ordnance as if it was the real thing lying on the ground. We also make them so they can be dismantled or the fuses taken off of the bomb."
"Right now we are looking into adding wiring," Cummings said.
Mr. Huezo said the 982nd MXS provided this service since 2006 and any military base with a training requirement can request a supply of these innovative training aids.
"Customers can call and ask for a particular ordnance, send pictures with dimensions, provide a catalog that shows the item's specifications or choose from one of the devices we have built in the past," Huezo said. "Another option is to completely reengineer the item."
To re-engineer a new training aid, the customer sends as much information as possible to the training development flight. The project is then assigned to an engineering technician. The technician engages the customer for as much info as possible, sometimes going TDY for more measurements or photos. The engineering technician designs the product and creates a drawing on their computer using Inventor software.
The engineer then produces a list of materials needed to produce the item and cost estimate. The drawing goes to the fabrication shop, and the model makers, technicians who do the actual fabrication of the product, begin reproducing the item.
Huezo said a person from the new EOD school that is coming to Sheppard has already contacted the 982nd MXS with a request to replicate a bomb they will use in their training.
"I can safely say that the customer is happy," he said. "We keep getting requests to deliver our items to repeat customers. Not only for more of the same items, but for quantities of newer items as well. Both our fabrication and engineering departments are being well utilized."