Three Fort Stewart explosive ordnance disposal teams competed at the battalion level this week for a coveted EOD team of the year award for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Fort Stewart public affairs. The winning team will compete at the EOD group level at Fort Campbell, Ky.
There are four EOD companies housed on Fort Stewart: the 731st, the 756th, the 766th and the 38th.
“It’s a culmination of all the training we do,” said Sgt. Brain Sevensma, who is with the 38th EOD Company. “It’s a chance to show who takes the most pride in training … to see who is the best of the best.”
Sevensma said EOD companies undergo perishable training, meaning new safety and bomb-disposal procedures always are being introduced, and standard operating procedures constantly are being reinforced.
“We get to think independently and use our knowledge,” said Pvt. 1st Class William Gaither with the 756th EOD Company. Gaither said EOD techs “go by the book” when identifying and diffusing explosives, but also must use their imagination in some circumstances to successfully outwit a clever enemy such as Iraqi insurgents.
Gaither added an EOD team’s most important tool is batteries.
“Everything we use runs on batteries,” he said.
Bomb suits also are a key piece of equipment, the EOD technician said.
Gaither said when he’s in the field he focuses on completing each mission and “making the area safe for other troops.”
EOD technicians often will use remote controlled robots like the Talon and the PackBot so team members can safely examine and dispose of explosives from a distance, competition judge Maj. Craig Frank said.
Frank said the Talon robot costs roughly $160,000-$175,000 and often is used to locate booby-traps. The PackBot has better searching capabilities, he said.
“It has a camera mounted in its arm so it can look over walls and through windows,” Frank said. Both robots require a good amount of training for EOD technicians to learn their controls, he added.
The competition began at 5 a.m. Monday and ends around noon today. Some EOD training even took place at night. Teams were graded on how well, how safely and how quickly they disposed of fake explosives during several scenarios.
One scenario included removing a briefcase bomb from a bank, a situation in which EOD might assist local law enforcement, competition judge Master Sgt. Jeremiah Raemhild said.
Another scenario involved rendering a projectile safe, and one exercise involved locating a buried roadside bomb, Raemhild said.