430th EOD Prepares next Generation

113th Sustainment Brigade
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Frank Marquez

Date: 05.22.2013
Posted: 08.05.2013 18:42
News ID: 111382
430th EOD prepares next generation

FORT PICKETT, Va. – The 430th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company unit got several big bangs for the buck during the unit’s recent annual training here.

More than a dozen of the unit’s bomb technicians practiced building and igniting "shots" using a variety of munitions during training at Range 4D on Fort Pickett.

“We’ve got a lot of experience in our technicians,” said Commander 1st Lt. Chad Peele, 37, who joined the EOD family a year ago. “It’s not just one person looking at the ‘shot,’ it’s the team building all the ‘shots.’ One person may build it, but five other people are going to look at it and make sure they got it right.”

Peele said the unit’s soldiers have been deployed continuously since 2005 to a number of hot spots including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait and, just this past summer, Botswana. The deployment experiences translate into knowledge passed down to new junior troops in the unit.

“They’re committed operators,” he said, in giving reasons soldiers enter into the highly hazardous career field. “It’s a small community. It’s the technical training you receive. In both Iraq and Afghanistan IEDs are a huge problem. I wanted to be involved in a way to help do something about that. EOD was the right choice.”

At this year’s annual training, the 430th’s soldiers settled in for hands-on classes in the basics of demolition, using percussion actuated neutralizers, modular demolition initiators, timed fuses, and blasting caps with a 50-pound limit in the disposal of a variety of munitions, including grenades, and small arms and mortar rounds. The annual training menu also included practice on firing the .50 caliber sniper rifle, obtaining team leader certifications at the Military Operations on Urban Terrain site, and engaging in mounted and dismounted improvised explosive device operations.

“It gets everybody thinking; we’re just trying to keep training, so, junior soldiers like me, learn. And it also solidifies what the older guys know,” Peele said.

The most senior soldier in the unit, Sgt. 1st Class Stuart “Spanky” Stevens, has spent 24 years in demolition. His nickname, he said, comes from his resemblance to a character in the TV series, the Little Rascals, which aired in the late 1920s.

Stevens, 48, who will retire from the Guard in nine months, worked for a police bomb squad after coming off of Active Duty with the Marine Corps. In November 2002, he joined the North Carolina National Guard 430th one month after the unit was stood up in Greenville, N.C., and became the state’s first bomb tech. In February 2012, the unit relocated to Washington.

He, Staff Sgt. James Scott, and Staff Sgt. Tracy Johnson, who was away preparing to attend the hazardous material course in June, traveled to Botswana this past summer in support the North Carolina’s 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team at an international joint exercise that lasted a little more than month (35 days).

“The 430th conducted range sweeps over there [Botswana] for a big maneuver and fire exercise,” said Stevens, who began his career in explosives in the Marine Corps in 1989. “We made sure that the area was safe for guys to come in and do their exercise.”

Scott, a combat tested bomb tech, taught classes on homemade explosives, and chemical ordnance. Fellow tech Johnson supplemented instruction with a course in aircraft explosives hazards. According to Scott, most of the key learning compared approaches to handling different types of explosives hazards.

Scott and other noncommissioned officer bomb techs understand that learning about the past means teaching about the future.

“Annual training gives us a good range of scenarios,” Scott said. “So with a bunch of guys coming off deployment, that experience becomes more comprehensive. You just have more tools in your tool bag. It just makes you a more versatile EOD tech.”

There is an inherent danger in the career field, and Stevens doesn’t mince words when speaking to the young soldiers who pick his brain, describing EOD soldiers who have been maimed and injured, or died. He adds that once in, they’re always in.

“The EOD community is one big family,” Stevens said. “They like to cut up, but when it comes time to do the mission, they’re going to get it done, one way or the other.”

Now, Stevens is busy passing on his vast knowledge to young soldiers like Sgt. Steven Rodgers, who deployed with the 89th MPs to Tikrit, Iraq in 2006. He remembers that during the deployment soldiers sand bagged the floor boards of their Humvees to reduce the blast from roadside IEDs.

“I came into EOD, when I got back from deployment where a bunch of my buddies got hurt,” he said. “So, I figured I’d go to bomb school and try and help them out.”

Stevens approved of the benefits of starting a career in EOD, which included a top secret clearance, a rigorous 11-month education in the latest trends and equipment, and first-hand information on bombing incidents, and current hot spots in the world. This kind of in-demand experience attracts civilian employers.

“We’re looking for a very special person,” Stevens said. “You have to have some mechanical ability. You have to be able to think on your feet. You must have the confidence to make decisions, and to stand by your decisions because, when you are out there doing your job, you are making life and death decisions.”

Peele added, “You don’t really think about the pressure. It’s where the expression ‘work hard, play hard’ comes into play. You just think about the mission at hand, and you go do it.”

There are National Guard EOD units in California, Texas, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Michigan, Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Puerto Rico, Alabama and New York.

For more information on becoming an explosives tech, contact your unit’s recruiter or retention NCO.