Few tasks require as much attention to detail as disarming an explosive device, and in the mountains of Arizona, searing heat and rugged terrain add complexity to an already difficult task.
Members of the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal unit prepare for deployments by training in the Piestewa Peak, Estrella Mountains and White Tank Mountains, where the terrain is similar to what they might encounter in Afghanistan.
“We head out roughly every two weeks to the mountains for a dismount exercise,” said Capt. Justin Schultz, 56th CES EOD acting flight commander. “We’re trying to get our people as conditioned as we can in a safe environment. That way our team leaders learn here rather than on their deployments.”
Dismount exercises prepare the EOD unit for situations in which they may need to leave their vehicles behind. They sometimes have to move on foot through rigorous terrain to disarm devices and ensure safety for units they are attached to.
“We believe nothing beats hands-on training,” Schultz said. “This is why we use simulated improvised explosive devices rigged to an alarm system. If triggered, it beeps loudly at our troops to let them know they failed to safely disarm the device.”
This is a great opportunity for EOD Airmen here to work on their training and conditioning, he said.
“Our leaders really like what we are accomplishing,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Alvarez, 56th CES EOD journeyman, who helped create some of the training situations for the unit. “The training we do has been very helpful to our newest Airmen because we try to make it as real as possible. We do everything as if we were deployed.”