When things go BOOM
SALAH AD DIN, Iraq - When things go BOOM, the natural reaction is to move away from it.
Except for the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight airmen whose response is to head toward the BOOM.
The flight is composed of six airmen from five different bases.
“The mission of the 332nd EOD flight is to respond to unexploded ordnance findings, post-blast sites and suspect packages,” said Master Sgt. Gavin Sinclair, 332nd ECES EOD flight chief. “We are responsible for everything on base. If someone does not know what it is or thinks it may be a hazard, we have to be prepared to take care of it.”
“We deal with the unknown, there are many potential hazards and we have to figure out whether or not they can hurt people,” added Sinclair, who is deployed from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. “We do our best to keep the base personnel safe and I think they feel at ease knowing that we are here and willing to take care of anything.”
The biggest challenge for EOD is making the area safe as quick as possible.
“When we have to shut down areas on base that affect other agencies, it is an involved process to determine if an explosive is safe to move or if we have to destroy it in place and there is not always constant communication, so they don’t know what is going on,” said Sinclair, who is from Miami, Fla. “This may be frustrating, but necessary to safely conclude the operation.”
Each member of the flight researches past indirect fire attacks, the munitions on base, hazards associated with munitions, what type of fuse it has and how it functions.
“Each person takes a specific item and teaches a class about it, so we have good information to draw from quickly,” said Sinclair. “We are all learning. When we see something we haven’t seen it may take a long time to figure out how it works, but with everyone having knowledge on different things, it could take us a few minutes to dissect it, figure out what it does, how it works and its associated hazards.”
Sinclair also said the flight has to become familiar with all the aircraft on base and their munitions, as well as their safety procedures.
Something different the flight does here, is provide opportunities for every person to be a team chief.
“Everyone’s been a part of a demolition operation, but not everyone’s had a chance to plan it,” said Sinclair. “Each time we do a demolition operation, someone else prepares it.”
“It provides opportunity for a junior Airman to take the lead quickly, because they never know when they will need to step up,” Sinclair continued.
The flight also facilitates training for other agencies and personnel, such as pilots, to train them how to locate potential hazards for convoys.
As a result of the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq, EOD has begun demolition of munitions that cannot be shipped and must be destroyed locally.
“We have disposed of over 1,300 items since June and we’re getting random items that are found around the base,” said Sinclair. “We are the busiest EOD flight in Iraq.”
From July’s Amnesty Day, the 332nd ECES EOD flight received more than 2-and-a-half tons of munitions material. After the items are cleared of explosives, they are sent to defense reutilization management office to be used for scrap or to be reutilized.