MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
An image that probably comes to mind when picturing an explosive ordnance disposal technician is someone with a pair of wire cutters in their hand and sweat dripping down their forehead while they decide whether to cut the red or blue wire.
While a wire-cutting scenario may not be entirely out of the question, the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron EOD team has a wide range of technology and skills to assess and eliminate explosive hazards.
“Our main goals are to protect and preserve personnel and property from explosive hazards,” said Tech. Sgt. Tristan Crandall, 341st CES EOD noncommissioned officer in charge of equipment.
To do this the EOD team responds to and mitigates explosive hazards on base, supports base agencies through explosive training and education, and partners with local authorities to address explosive hazards found off-base, including military munitions, old cannonballs and mining explosives.
“Our more common responses tend to be the ‘we found this in grandpa’s shed’ scenario, wherein someone has had a family member pass away and discovers an old military round or mining dynamite in a garage or shed,” Crandall said.
These incidents are reported through off-base partners, including local police departments, who then request EOD assistance in rendering an item safe and possibly destroying it through a controlled detonation. EOD can be called to anywhere in Montana, including Yellowstone National Park, where they were once called to neutralize an avalanche ordnance that didn’t detonate.
“If you find something you think might be an explosive, don’t touch it and contact your local authorities,” Crandall said.
The EOD technical training course is multi-service, including service members from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Both enlisted and officers sit side by side learning the same curriculum.
“This training helps to ensure the same base knowledge reaches all branches as we can find ourselves supporting each other’s operations or working as joint teams,” Crandall said.
Senior Airman Nathanael Coulter, 341st CES EOD team member, explained that when they are not responding to a potential explosive device, they spend a substantial amount of time training. They train new team members and team leaders on their roles and learn new procedures or how to operate new equipment. EOD regularly trains on disarming conventional, chemical and improvised explosive devices. They use home station equipment and prepare for deployments using the tools they have access to downrange.
They also inventory and maintain all their equipment, including robotic systems, and perform equipment checks to ensure everything is in working order.
“We don’t want to find out something is broken when we really need to use it,” Coulter said.
Crandall said that as an EOD team leader, he enjoys the puzzle aspect of a response and determining how something works so he can devise a way to defeat it.
“A close second to that is knowing that we make a difference in restoring operations to normal, either on base or if we are supporting off base authorities,” he said.