FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. – --
A loud boom echoes across the range with debris flying in every direction. As an enormous cloud of gray smoke emerges from the blast and begins to clear, a group of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airmen admires the chaos of successfully disposing another potential threat to the Airmen, families and citizens of the Inland Northwest.
The 92nd Civil Engineer EOD flight provides safety for Fairchild Airmen, their families and the Inland Northwest community by detecting, identifying and disposing of all threatening explosive ordnances.
The road to becoming an EOD professional in the Air Force is a challenging one.
“You definitely need to have drive and a lot of initiative,” said Staff Sgt. Alberto Ordonez, 92nd Civil Engineer EOD equipment technician. “Just graduating is a challenge on its own, you got to be motivated the entire time.”
EOD training is intense; it takes up to a year to complete with only about a 12% pass rate.
“It’s discouraging if you let it be,” Ordonez said. “If only 12 in 100 people make it, then you just have to think to yourself, ‘I’m going to be one of those 12.’ A lot of people want to quit before they even start, you just can’t let it bother you.”
Besides the physical challenges, EOD Airmen need to be critical thinkers under pressure to learn how to disarm and safely destroy explosives.
“The first half of [training] is all about general knowledge on explosives, how they work and how to do demolition procedures,” Ordonez said. “Once you get through that, it’s about learning how to use our most basic tools.”
EOD practices with Improvised Explosive Devices, and destroy several real (unarmed) items – such as grenades, land mines, projectiles, bombs and guided missiles.
“We’ll usually have our experienced people who have deployed…bring whatever scenarios they encountered and try to mimic it,” Ordonez said. “They’ll build up a whole IED without the explosives, but everything else from circuitry and functions will be the same, and use it for mock training.”
EOD performs mock scenarios in their shop and range to mimic a combat area similar to what they would see during a deployment.
“You have to want to learn, have a lot of attention to detail and want to help others,” Ordonez said. “Helping your team and helping those who are being affected by whatever explosive threat is there.”
Fairchild EOD responds to calls covering about an 82 thousand square-mile area stretching from Yakima, to Idaho and parts of Montana, to the north east side of Oregon.
“We respond to a pretty large area,” Ordonez said. “Once [civilian police] receive a call involving a U.S. ordnance, they have to call us. We then work with local authorities to render the area safe, gather the ordnance and take it back to the range to properly dispose of it.”
The unique nature of the EOD career field demands a cohesive team and with only 16 EOD personnel on base, the group is a very tight-knit team that frequently travels to accomplish the mission.
“Explosive Ordnance Disposal is the most fulfilling job in the Air Force,” said Senior Airman Devan Siler 92nd Civil Engineer EOD technician. “Every day is a unique challenge with a diverse team that helps us complete our mission.”
EOD is a combat support career field that requires constant learning.
“I think we have a lot of unique opportunities that a lot of other people in the Air Force don’t get,” Ordonez said. “I think the best part of this career field, other than working with my coworkers, are the variety of opportunities for travel and training. I’ve been able to go to three different countries in the first five years [that] I’ve been in this career field.”
EOD is securing the safety of Team Fairchild and the local community, responding to threats around the clock to ensure the safety of Fairchild Airmen, families and the Inland Northwest.