Hill EOD flights participate in week-long training

  • Published
  • By Capt. James Stapleton
  • 775th Civil Engineer Squadron

In the heart of the Utah desert, with sweltering heat and dust storms providing a backdrop that harkened back to locations of counter-improvised explosive device missions, explosive ordnance disposal technicians from the 775th and 419th Civil Engineer Squadrons participated in a week-long training exercise in austere conditions.

Airmen trained for all EOD mission areas requisite to the threat of a peer adversary, training on a blend of topics ranging from general contingency skills to airfield damage recovery. Technicians ran through 28 training events across the spectrum of EOD’s wartime missions, including rapid airfield damage recovery in an area-denied environment, technical intelligence reporting on first-found ordnance, IEDs, and site exploitation.

“The observer-controllers set up the scenarios using a blend of intelligence on current and future threats combined with the OCs’ many years of deployed experience,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Casko, the primary organizer for the event. “Each problem was crafted to focus on an EOD skill that may have had less of a focus in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that we know will be critical to success in a peer-to-peer fight.”

The EOD teams operated with limited equipment and communications gear—constraints that are key to making the Agile Combat Employment concept work. In addition, a bivouac was created for the event about 90 miles from the base on Bureau of Land Management land, enabling the training to take place on austere and unfamiliar terrain, bringing additional realism to the environment. Senior Airman Karl Wispell, an EOD team member with the 775 CES, appreciated the opportunity to practice highly-challenging situations with limited gear in a new location.

“The week was an absolute gauntlet, but it was excellent training," Wispell said. "Whatever you chose to bring out to the site based on the OPORD was what you had, both for the training scenarios and for your own survival.”

Participants also sharpened their general contingency skills by writing and using mission-type orders, building an Alaskan Small Shelter System, and conducting nighttime land navigation. Some of the training applied not only to future deployments, but also to Hill EOD’s largest daily stateside mission: range clearance operations on the Utah Test and Training Range. In particular, a large-area submunition clearance, all-terrain driving, and a Tactical Combat Casualty Care scenario were throughlines between training, stateside operations, and wartime operations.

“This was one of our first large EOD-specific exercises that we tried to gear toward near-peer threats,” Casko said. “We’re excited to innovate with the planning and training as well as incorporate more units to spread the love in future years.”