MCAS IWAKUNI, Japan --
U.S. Marines with Explosive Ordnance Disposal conducted an improvised explosive device exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, May 19.
EOD is responsible for the construction, deployment, disarmament, and disposal of a myraid of explosive hazards. This particular exercise was designed to allow EOD to utilize a robot in their arsenal, which allows them to engage explosives at a greater distance with no harm to Marines.
“What we do here is considered the highest level of training,” said Gunnery Sgt. Unberto Rangel, an EOD technician with MCAS Iwakuni EOD.
“If we are not careful, if we don’t pay attention, we get hurt. It’s a very dangerous job.” Gunnery Sgt. Unberto Rangel, MCAS Iwakuni EOD technician
“We have to pass our experience down to the junior Marines because once we’re gone that knowledge is gone. You can read about it, but if you don’t actually do it hands-on, it’s hard to develop those skills,” said Rangel.
Rangel said that MCAS Iwakuni EOD’s mission consists of regular training throughout the year to prepare for any possible scenario. Their skills aren’t often called upon in real-world scenarios, but in order to maintain a high level of technical proficiency, EOD conducts practical application training every week.
“The most challenging aspect to our job is ensuring the safety of everyone involved,” said Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Russell, the officer in charge of MCAS Iwakuni EOD.
Safety is considered one of the highest priorities when it comes to their field. During the exercise, the Marines kept tabs on everything and everyone in the surrounding area, making sure pedestrians were clear of the danger zone and Marines participating were conducting procedures properly.
Training with Technology
Photo by Lance Cpl. Mitchell Austin
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Kevin Syphanthavong, (left), Sgt. Anthony Negrete, (center), and Staff Sgt. Jake Castro, (right), Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians with Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni EOD, unload an EOD robot for an exercise aboard MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, May 19, 2021. This particular exercise was designed to allow EOD to utilize a robot in their arsenal, which allows them to engage explosives at a greater distance with no harm to Marines.
“We have to be ready every time we go on a mission,” said Russell. “Our skill set is extremely perishable. There are many ways to build a mousetrap, and our job requires us to identify, assess, and mitigate that particular mousetrap, but it’s all going to depend on the creativity of the bomber. Our job is to understand the construction of that device.”
Every EOD Marine has their own way of disarming devices. With a collection of old and new techniques suited to a variety of scenarios, there isn’t a wrong or right way to get the job done. As long as safety stays a priority, Marines are able to think outside the box to complete the mission.
“Training helps the newer Marines build their logic trees (an organizational tool that EOD techs use to diagram all possible causes of a failure event),” said Russell. “I purposely have my Marines develop these training scenarios to enhance those logic trees, because every situation is different. But through experience and education, you can model your logic tree to get to a solution faster.”
When describing the benefit of team-driven exercises, Russell stated, “I like to play out the role-playing aspect because it adds to the human dimension. It adds more frustration [and] potential for things to go wrong. I would rather have my Marines experience that here in these scenarios and get used to it, than out there where someone could get hurt.”