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Staff Sgt. Mike Sadowski, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, demonstrates the operations and functions of the man-transportable robot system "Talon 4" June 30. The Talon is an EOD robot used to identify, dispose of and detonate explosives.

Photo by Lcpl Majors

Explosive Ordnance Disposal saves lives one blast at a time

13 Oct 2009 | Lance Cpl. Zachary Majors

German soldiers developed advanced, time-controlled fuses during World War II that allowed ordnance to sit for 80 hours before detonating, which led to a need for explosive ordnance detection.

As warfare evolved, the improvised explosive device developed into one of the world’s cheapest and deadliest weapons, making explosive ordnance disposal Marines more important than ever.

While all branches have these technicians, their missions vary. The Corps’ EOD mission is to support Marine operating forces, national security strategy, and force protection by locating, identifying and disposing of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosive hazards that present a threat to operations, installations, personnel, or material, explained Staff Sgt. Michelle Estabrook, an EOD technician here.

“Our main goal is to actually prevent stuff from blowing up,” said Staff Sgt. Javier Solis, another EOD technician here. “The only time we detonate stuff is when it’s too dangerous to handle.”

The journey to become an EOD technician begins with visiting a career retention specialist to get an application. All EOD Marines must have a prior service record and be over the age of 21, possess a general technical score of 110 or higher and pass a reading comprehension test, explained Solis.

“Marines must be responsible, mature, physically fit, and possess an ability to stay cool under pressure to be an EOD technician,” said Solis.

Following the application process, EOD will contact potential candidates to schedule some on-the-job training as well as physical and mental tests.

The physical test for potential EOD Marines includes a Claustrophobic/Bomb Suit Agility test, which requires a Marine to don a bomb suit for a total of 20 minutes. The Marine must walk 100 meters with a 25-pound weight, kneel down and place the weight on the ground then return back to the safe area 100 meters away. Once in the safe area the Marine must lie down in the prone position then return to the standing position without assistance.

Once the applicant passes all necessary requirements, tests and background checks, he or she may get a recommendation to attend the EOD school at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., explained Estabrook.

The course at Eglin AFB could take students anywhere from seven months to two years to complete. At this school the students learn about nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological explosives, aircraft ordnance disposal and munitions disposal.

“We are trained to deal with all aspects of unexploded ordnance,” said Solis. “If it explodes, or has the potential to explode. We can handle it.”

Wing EOD technicians handle a variety of ordnance. Some of the more common incidents on air stations include flare or ordnance attached to aircraft that failed to fire and UXO on firing ranges, air wing EOD also handles aircraft crashes.

“If an aircraft crashes without any ordnance there are still explosive hazards,” said Solis. “Ejection seats are pretty much rockets.”

All EOD units also assist local and federal law enforcement agencies whenever there are incidents off base, explained Estabrook.

“We also get a lot of VIP protection support activity missions,” said Estabrook. “We could help aid in the protection of anyone from the Dalai Lama to the president.”

When deployed, these Marines must deal with the added threat of improvised explosive devices.

“UXO was our original mission,” said Solis. “With this war going on, the IED mission falls under us. Right now everyone is getting experience with that.”

“I enjoy the excitement, the sense of knowing you got something bad off the streets so the mission can carry on,” added Solis.

Whatever the mission, EOD Marines routinely place their bodies in harms’ way in an effort to protect service members and civilians from injury or death.

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3rd Marine Aircraft Wing