Feature   Defense News

EOD Team Sharpens Skills, Maintains Proficiency During Pandemic

July 9, 2020 | BY AIR FORCE TECH. SGT. DELLA CREECH , 315th Airlift Wing

The 315th Civil Engineer Flight's explosive ordnance disposal team held a live-explosives demolition training at the EOD range near the Naval Weapons Station Charleston, South Carolina.

Training evolutions like the live-explosives demolition help the reservists with the 315th CEF maintain mission readiness while gaining training time imperative to mission and unit proficiency, giving them the ability to answer the nation's call when needed — even during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

"This demo will help the EOD team to protect others in the event that an explosive runs the risk of detonating," Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brendan Mcavey, the explosive ordnance technician team lead with the 315th CEF, said. "Our technicians can accomplish a myriad of assignments, so these demolition exercises are crucial to learning how explosives work and how to perform the mission."

An airman wearing a face mask and holding some yellow wire in his left hand cups his right hand to his face to yell an instruction.
Airmen Alert
Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Keskinen, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 315th Civil Engineer Flight, alerts other members that a controlled explosion is about to detonate on Joint Base Charleston, S.C., June 27, 2020. “Fire in the hole” is typically the phrase shouted by the designated member to let everyone know the controlled explosion is about to commence.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman William Brugge
VIRIN: 200627-F-GG444-1016M
An airman wearing a face mask kneels next to a large spool of yellow wire.
Airman Prep
Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Keskinen, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 315th Civil Engineer Flight, prepares for a controlled explosion on Joint Base Charleston, S.C., June 27, 2020. Controlled demolitions are a crucial part of training for explosive ordnance disposal technicians.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Della S. Creech
VIRIN: 200627-F-UL476-1001M

With a vision to be integrated, experienced and relevant, the 315th CEF conducts monthly explosives training to remain proficient in tackling any task, domestic or abroad. The tasks can range from defusing Civil War- era relics to safely disposing of improvised explosive devices.

The variety of experience held by these EOD reservists range from every day skills to the unique expertise to be able to determine the required safety distance from an explosive if it should detonate.

"Due to the nature of the work, there is no way to train our airmen virtually to properly dispose of explosives," Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Johnson, the EOD program manager with the 315th CEF, said. "The live-contact approach provides them important time using the tools needed to do the job, ensuring that they stay on the leading edge of what they do."

This proficiency demolition training used a remote detonation barrel to pinpoint a mock IED to sharpen the reservists' skills. This is a hands-on irreplaceable skill to the EOD team. Many of these skills strengthen the EOD airman both on and off of duty, Johnson said.

"The professionalism from EOD, and the discipline from the military, help me to stay focused on our goals during COVID in my civilian life working cybersecurity at Bank of America," Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Keskinen, an explosive ordnance technician with the 315th CEF, said.

Airmen wearing face masks walk side by side. One is carrying equipment, and the other is carrying a rolled-up length of yellow wire.
Cleaning Crew
Explosive ordnance technicians from the 315th Civil Engineer Flight, Joint Base Charleston, S.C., clean up after a scheduled demolition, June 27, 2020. Controlled demolitions are a crucial part of training for explosive ordnance disposal technicians.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman William Brugge
VIRIN: 200627-F-GG444-1025M

Keskinen not only sharpens his skills with the 315th CEF, but also transfers them to his rotational master's degree program. Keskinen explained that in cybersecurity, staying on the cutting edge and sharpening his skills as much as possible makes all of the difference when the pressure is on. He uses this discipline to strengthen the 315th CEF EOD team as well.

"I appreciate having the opportunity to train through such crazy times and remain qualified," Keskinen said. "Plus, I love blowing stuff up."