52nd EOD aims to raise numbers, awareness with recruitment event

Private First Class Craig Bernard (left), 74th Composite Transportation Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), fills out paperwork Sept. 3, 2020, with Capt. Chuck Holmes, 184th Ordnance Battalion, 52nd Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and other members of 52nd EOD at a recruitment event. 52nd EOD will host a hiring event 10:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m. July 21 at the Gate 10 Express (shoppette), 7970 Strike Blvd.

The 52nd Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) is spearheading an Army-wide effort to bring on new EOD specialists with a hiring event 10:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m. July 21 at the Gate 10 Express (shoppette), 7970 Strike Blvd.

Fort Campbell is among 15 installations hosting EOD hiring days this year as the Army looks to strengthen the career field’s flagging recruitment numbers. For the 52nd EOD, it’s the latest in a series of annual hiring events.

“We’re facing a critical shortage of junior enlisted Soldiers,” said Capt. Alexander Kircher, a platoon leader with 717th Ordnance Company, 52nd EOD. “This is a ballpark estimate, but the last figures I saw for the total overall strength for EOD personnel under the rank of sergeant were less than 50%. Those positions are currently being filled by higher-ranking individuals or they’re unfilled entirely.”

That means specialists and privates first class are in particularly high demand, Kircher said, but anyone interested in EOD can learn about the tools of the trade from experts at the hiring day.

“We won’t have any equipment on-site that they can physically manipulate, but we’ll have a static display,” he said. “At minimum, that includes a robot, a bomb suit and possibly other EOD equipment. We’ll also have some EOD vehicles present, whether it’s an emergency response vehicle or a tactical vehicle.”

EOD specialists are trained to identify and eliminate a wide variety of explosives, chemical weapons and nuclear weapons. Their presence on the battlefield enables Soldiers to safely maneuver through dangerous or unfamiliar territory and complete their mission, but they’re used at home as often as they are abroad.

“By reclassing and then completing EOD school, you have an almost guaranteed opportunity to work with local and federal law enforcement agencies in support of a wide array of mission sets,” said Staff Sgt. Russell Gore, 717th Ord. Co., 52nd EOD. “That can include providing direct support to the president and his or her Family, and the vice president and his or her Family.”

Graduating from EOD school and earning the badge is a challenging task for Soldiers entering the field. It requires a seven-week preparation course at Fort Lee, Virginia, followed by 28 weeks of advanced training at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and not everyone is guaranteed to finish.

But the effort can prove rewarding, yielding selected reenlistment bonuses up to $72,000, a flat $150 in monthly demolition pay and up to $375 in scaling special duty assignment pay, or SDAP.

“SDAP is based off your EOD badge level,” Gore said. “When you first graduate from EOD school you earn your basic badge, and you go from there – bonus pay for the basic badge is $200, the senior badge is $300 and the master badge is $375.”

Those interested in reclassing to EOD after attending the hiring event can talk to Kircher to set up an interview and receive a packet of forms for the U.S. Army Special Operations Recruiting Office, which will ultimately determine their eligibility. Once their interview and vetting process is completed, candidates will be issued a bid to report to EOD school and could be assigned to any EOD position based on the Army’s needs.

Requirements for joining EOD include being a U.S. citizen with a valid driver’s license, having a minimum 105 general maintenance score, holding a rank from E-1 through E-4 (non-promotable), having a minimum physical profile of 111121, being eligible for an interim secret security clearance, having normal color vision and the ability to hear normal voice communication from up to 25 feet.

“As of right now there’s no prescribed goal by the higher-level command, but this is a hiring day as well as an informational day,” Kircher said. “We’re using this to spread knowledge about a very niche career field that not a lot of people know about, and our piece in the Army-wide recruiting effort is to reach those who are geographically located on Fort Campbell ... and it’s a big push because come October 1 of this year we will be adding nine new EOD tech positions within the company.”

Kircher said last year’s hiring day was a success despite the COVID-19 pandemic and brought several new candidates to EOD school. He hopes to see similar results this time.

“We’re one of the largest installations as far as manning goes across the entirety of the Army, and so we have the ability to reach people in multiple career fields across multiple units,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for people to see the smaller community that we are, how we operate in the Army and what we can offer to people that other jobs cannot.”