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U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Andrew Cooper, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, demonstrates the capabilities of a remote controlled robot used by EOD Marines to the Spanish Defense Force’s Unidad Militar de Emergencias, an emergency response force, at Morón Air Base, Spain, Feb. 18, 2015. The Marines used the demonstration as an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with UME personnel and set the stage for future joint training exercises.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Mendoza

Common Ground; EOD Marines, Spanish UME set stage for lasting relationship

3 Mar 2015 | Sgt. Paul Peterson The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

U.S. Marine explosive ordnance disposal technicians with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa laid the foundation for future combined training with their Spanish allies during an introductory training session Feb. 18.

The Marines joined with members of the Spanish military’s Unidad Militar de Emergencias, a military disaster relief unit also stationed at Morón Air Base, to explore future training opportunities to benefit both nations.

“That’s why we’re out here,” said Sgt. Travis Vuocolo, and EOD technician with SPMAGTF-CR-AF. “You really never know where you’re going to turn up something useful to you, and I’m sure it’s the same thing with them. That’s why we’re trying to get out and do this as much as possible.”

The EOD Marines provided a demonstration of some of their robotic equipment for UME personnel, who in turn offered a tour of a realistic disaster training site they created nearby. They offered to make that site available to the Marines so the two groups could train side by side.

“They definitely came to us with open arms,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Cooper, an EOD technician who took part in the exchange. “We’re trying to create a relationship with each other. We’re not just here to do our own thing. We want to come here and work together, learn about each other, and learn what our capabilities are and what we can teach each other.”

“They had so many questions for us, and they wanted to show us around their area,” said Cooper.

The training facility captures the chaos of a disaster site, or even a war-torn city street. Rubble, destroyed vehicles, and collapsing infrastructure above and below ground offers a unique training environment for the EOD technicians. Similarly, the expertise of the American technicians and their robotic equipment bring a different dimension to training scenarios that could be conducted there.

“When you have professionals get together, you’re going to have some common ground,” said Vuocolo. “It’s very interesting to see what we have in common. Although they are not serving in that billet right now, several of the UME have worked as EOD technicians in the past. Even without having a mastery of Spanish, I could immediately tell when they were talking about certain [procedures].”

In fact, several members of UME served in places such as Afghanistan, where they performed missions similar to the Marine EOD technicians supporting International Security Assistance Forces.

“They’ve already talked about opening up doors beyond UME into their own EOD technicians in other places,” said Cooper. “We are very excited here about working with them and learning from them.”