At the close of an eventful 2020, Soldiers of the 52nd Ordnance Group, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, and its subordinate units reflected on the year’s accomplishments before and after the impacts of COVID-19.
In February, the 717th Ordnance Company (EOD), 184th Ordnance Battalion (EOD), 52nd EOD, conducted a combined deployment validation exercise with 20th Special Forces Group at Fort McClellan, Alabama.
In April, elements of the 184th Ord. Bn. returned from a nine-month deployment to U.S. Central Command.
Most units are typically assigned to one of the main missions: Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel or Operation Spartan Shield. Task Force Hellhound had duties that involved all three.
“We had mission command of all of the EOD, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and forensic forces for all of U.S. Central Command,” said Lt. Col. Dorian Hatcher, commander of 184th Ord. Bn. “We provided force protection for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive hazards, so everything from improvised explosive devices to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear response across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, so we supported multiple task force commanders and combatant commanders in keeping people safe.”
The team did exceptionally well, executing 2,199 missions across three geographical combatant commands throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, he said.
For a small headquarters expanded across multiple countries within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility the team did a fantastic job, said Col. Daniel Duncan, former commander of 52nd EOD.
“What they did at their level was phenomenal, absolutely enabling the mission success over there not only in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, but other countries in the region as well,” Duncan said. “EOD units often have to punch above their weight class and 184th is no exception as they managed hundreds of high-risk missions and did an outstanding job. They trained for it really hard and they went out there and executed way above what people expected of them. It was just a fantastic job and we are so glad to have them home.”
Defusing Danger Soldiers revamped vital training called the Assault Explosive Ordnance Disposal Program in June. The program not only goes over the basics of what an EOD technician should know, but also addresses nonstandard mission skillsets when working in an austere environment.
“The program itself doesn’t deviate from the importance of the basic skills of every EOD technician and what they learned at the schoolhouse,” said Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Brinkmeyer, 52nd EOD, S-3 plans and training supervisor and one of the program’s coordinators. “It just allows them to rapidly employ and understand things on a higher level than they currently do.”
Originally this program was only two weeks of comprehensive training, but it has now developed into an eight-week training pipeline that enables mission success and increases the survivability of EOD technicians.
“I’m very grateful that I get to be a member of this,” Brinkmeyer said. “I think what really drives each and every participant is that every Soldier who they train, their success or catastrophic failure is partially owned by the individuals who train them.”
The 744th Ord. Co., , 184th Ord. Bn., conducted a protective works demolition range July 8-9. Protective works techniques are used in preventing damage from munition to nearby structures that would be caused by blast and fragmentation. Day one of the training focused on the sandbag technique in which participants used 1,700 sandbags to mitigate 60mm and 81mm code-h mortars. On day two, Soldiers used and children’s pools to mitigate additional code-h munitions. The training was invaluable, particularly in building an understanding of the logistical steps necessary to effectively conduct protective works and the effectiveness of different techniques.
Additionally, 744th Soldiers supported testing of the Next Generation Advanced Bomb Suit July 13-24.
“Product Manager Soldier Protective Equipment is using a test-fix-test strategy to develop the NGABS,” said Maj. Justin Bond, a representative of the Product Engineering Office in charge of PM SPE. “We are in the engineering development phase for NGABS and the human factors evaluation provides direct feedback from the user to help us understand whether our design is correct, and/or what changes we need to consider for future updates.”
The testing was broken down into parts. The first part focuses primarily on the fit of the suit, donning and doffing procedures, and familiarization with its components. The second tested the NGABS functionality and its impact on the wearer in a field environment. Soldiers conducted EOD scenarios with the NGABS and EOD 8 bomb suit, which is current suit in service. The direct comparison of the suits fed extensive analytics that will drastically improve the refinement of the NGABS prior to its fielding. Additional ballistic testing ensures the NGABS meets standard fragmentation, impact, and blast overpressure requirements.
Even amid a global pandemic, the EOD community never neglected training nor fitness. 717th Ord. Co. led an intense physical training event when Brig. Gen. Antonio Munera, 20th CBRNE commander, came to visit in July.
Five Soldiers traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky for an EOD focused fitness competition with the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team.
Four EOD technicians competed against four members from the WFT in a fitness event, all wearing bomb suits. These events showcased the unit’s commitment to fitness and excellence.
The 723rd Ord. Co. executed a Deployment Readiness Exercise III with 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), in August. The exercise consisted of realistic training, where units performed their deployment mission in a scenario to test what they have learned and allow them to experience the pressures of a live operation and movement to Fort Bliss, Texas.
In October, 49th Ord. Co. transitioned from an external evaluation reset, and inventories directly into PMT with 5th SFG and the UK 4 Rifles. One platoon linked in with the Advanced Operations Base while three teams worked with Operational Detachment Alpha. Four teams worked with ODA-like elements of the UK 4 Rifles conducting live-fire weapons ranges, foreign internal defense training, and intensive full mission profiles which started.
Before the year was out, 717th Ord. Co. hosted the EOD Warrior Foundation for the EOD 136 Memorial Workout Event. This workout honors the memory of the 136 EOD technicians that have lost their lives in the line of duty since 9/11.
Despite the challenges of operations in the COVID-19 environment, EOD successfully provided support to unified land operations by detecting, locating, identifying, diagnosing, rendering safe, exploiting, and disposing of all explosive ordnance, improvised explosive devices, improvised/homemade explosives, and weapons of mass destruction.
“This mission is so important because it pertains to the safety of the local communities,” said Sergeant 1st Class Steven Sadler, a noncommissioned officer assigned to 55th Ordnance Company (EOD), 192nd Ordnance Battalion (EOD).
52nd EOD responded to 157 explosive involved incidents on post and 164 incidents in the surrounding area supporting local civil authorities. Overall, EOD teams on post disposed of 1,364 individual ordnance items. EOD teams supported 94 U.S. Secret Service missions protecting the president, vice president, first Family, and other foreign dignitaries.