A day at the range leads to coalition collaboration

Looking around the expanse of the Dawkins Demolitions Range, a collage of different uniforms donning various nations’ flags intermingle with curiosity, intrigue and upbeat interest.

U.S. service members from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and coalition partners from Denmark, Italy, and the United Kingdom, participated in a Coalition Demolition Day, hosted by the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, March 11.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kole Hiemenz, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, EOD flight, loads explosives in the back of a truck in preparation of a control detonation at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, March 11, 2022. U.S. Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and coalition partners from Denmark, Italy, and the United Kingdom were invited out for a Coalition Demolition Day during a regularly scheduled controlled detonation of unserviceable munitions, to support the continued forging of resolute partnerships. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Patrick Evenson)

The partner organizations were invited out during a regularly scheduled controlled detonation of unserviceable munitions, to support the continued forging of resolute partnerships.

“It’s one of the priorities of the 386th [Air Expeditionary Wing], to foster enduring partnerships. We’re here at this base all working together,” said Capt. Judah Epstein, flight commander of the EOD flight. “We’re working together towards a common goal out here in this AOR.” Epstein is deployed from the 926th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

On average, EOD has a controlled demolition once a week. According to Epstein, the idea of inviting their coalition counterparts out for the controlled demolition started with a conversation with those from the Italian Air Force.

“We met with them and tried to figure out how we can work together to establish a stronger partnership, because they’re EOD and we’re EOD,” said Epstein. “They had some items to get rid of, but they didn’t have a range. Then there was an additional coalition partner that needed to get rid of some items, so we invited them out as well.”

The event ballooned across the coalition landscape here at Ali Al Salem and beyond. In the end there was EOD representation from the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom, Italian Air Force, U.S. Army, a group of non-EOD from the Royal Danish Army and even a team of Marines from the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.

U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt Joshua McLeod, detachment commander of the Marine Security Guards at the American Embassy in Kuwait City, prior to his current assignment, was an EOD technician for 17 years for the Marine Corps. During meetings at the embassy he saw opportunity for inter-service collaboration and took advantage of his EOD experience as a springboard.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Dragoo, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, EOD flight, explains the operation of a remote detonator to Private Jürs Rikke with the Royal Danish Army during a Coalition Demolition Day at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, March 11, 2022. U.S. Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and coalition partners from Denmark, Italy, and the United Kingdom were invited out during a regularly scheduled controlled detonation of unserviceable munitions, to support the continued forging of resolute partnerships. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Patrick Evenson)

“It was an opportunity to give the young Marines who have never worked with EOD or never worked with the Air Force before that experience,” said McLeod. “If we do have a bomb threat or something that involves explosives, these guys are gonna be the ones that we call.”

Plans are already underway to repay the favor and have the 386th EOD team train at the embassy.

“We’re going to do some drills and training with them at the embassy,” said McLeod. “And hopefully, we’ll keep that relationship going by doing some training either with them up here or there at the embassy.”

Building new partnerships and strengthening those that exist was the theme of the day and is critical to current and future missions. In the short term, the time at the range with EOD was a welcome time away from the regular work day. However, the relationships built lead to the ultimate goal of promoting security and stability to the region through mutual respect.

“It’s a good opportunity to strengthen those relations,” said Epstein. “When need arises for real world taskings we’ll have those relationships built.”

“It’s a small world and you never know what everyone’s gonna need at the end of the day, said McLeod.”

More Stories