It may not sound that attractive, but a lot of the 308,000 acres at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., resemble the same landscape deployed service members find in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Edwards’ austere environment provides the perfect place for Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians to practice their craft.
The 812th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD Flight welcomed EOD brethren from across the country to Edwards for a two-week long bivouac training event earlier this month.
Twelve military EOD teams from nine bases and Kern County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad members tackled daily field problems similar to threats they would find while deployed.
“Most of the scenarios are [improvised explosive devices] that have been encountered overseas,” said Tech. Sgt. Colby Nokes, 812th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD Flight. “Each problem is unique with different learning points and objectives. Each problem focuses on different techniques, tactics and procedures that increase survivability for the EOD team.”
Nokes added that Air Force EOD does not have a current course to train members for dismounted operations while deployed in support of ground forces.
“Generally speaking, most bases do not have the amount of open terrain to provide a realistic training arena. We saw a great opportunity to make something happen at this location and we wanted to assist in training other units that don’t have the experience or capability to train properly at their home station,” Nokes said.
Each day the EOD specialists donned their full gear, brought equipment such as robots, and headed out into the desert. Each two- or three- man team encountered a dozen “problems” or training stations each with a different scenario, which included threats such as IEDs, improvised rockets and booby traps. The Edwards EOD techs based each scenario on threats and trends encountered during real-world missions.
“Most schools for the military are behind the current trends because they are always trying to play catchup,” said Nokes. “Since we conduct all the training in house we can update scenarios, operations, tools and [techniques, tactics and procedures] to ensure that training is up to date and even pushing teams for future events.”
After each training day ended, they headed back to their campsite to review the day’s events.
Nokes said this is the third year conducting the training, which began internally and then grew by inviting other EOD units. He said the response from the invitees has been “overwhelmingly” positive.
“The majority of teams want to return because this provides the experience they can’t get anywhere else,” said Nokes. “It prepares them for deployments when the Air Force calls us to go support where most other Airman will not go. This is why we have to be prepared to make our own camp, carry the gear and equipment needed for days on end, and support whoever we are tasked to support with little to no notice.”