FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Airmen, Marines and Soldiers from a range of units and career fields participated in an exercise focusing on explosive ordnance disposal at Fort McCoy and Volk Field in Wisconsin on May 15-25.
The 115th Fighter Wing hosted Audacious Warrior, an EOD training exercise involving partners in supporting roles, including the 115th Fighter Wing Emergency Management and Security Forces, the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, Army Reserve unit out of Green Bay, and the Combat Logistics Battalion 22 out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
More than a dozen EOD units from across the country also participated.
“EOD has nine mission sets, and we try to exercise as many as possible here to get our three, five and seven levels more experience working in teams, especially teams they’re not used to working with,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Vandermolen, 115th Fighter Wing logistics section chief and facilitator of Audacious Warrior. “We’re able to leverage all the equipment and training facilities that are available to us here.”
Generally, EOD, Security Forces and Emergency Management don’t work together until a real emergency. This exercise emphasized the importance of training together to prepare for such emergencies.
“We want to set each other up for success,” said Vandermolen. “For example, Security Forces will most likely respond or find suspicious items first and then request us. And in turn, if a situation then included some type of CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear) hazard, we would then potentially request EM support. So if we train appropriately, we know what each entity brings to the table and what they might be looking for when they show up on scene.”
Vandermolen said it’s common for EOD to work with other service branches.
“In terms of our joint service support, it occurs mostly overseas in a contingency operations environment,” he said. “All EOD technicians attend the same technical school and receive the same baseline training, which can make it much more common for Air Force EOD teams to respond to calls for assistance from other branches. We all speak a different language with our jargon or terms, and when we get up here, we can hash some of that out. It gets us all on the same page so that we can go operate together more efficiently.”
The responsibilities of EOD members include building IEDs or inert IEDs used for training. However, Vandermolen explained that bomb makers tend to have a “signature,” varying their techniques, methods and materials.
“When you get thrown on a team with people you don’t know and they have different methods or preferences, you can add those thought processes and techniques to your skill set and bring them back to your unit,” said Vandermolen. “It seems to help our career field evolve and ensures our individual units have fewer blind spots in their training.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacob Campbell, a Marine Corps EOD officer with the CLB 22, brings his own personal experience to the exercise by creating training events based on years of Iraq and Afghanistan warfighting.
As a Marine, EOD specifics are more tailored toward maneuver warfare. For example, a Marine EOD unit may be attached to a Marine infantry platoon or company providing them the direct or general support. This provides Air Force and Army EOD units training that may not otherwise have been highlighted.
“We’ve been partnering with the Air National Guard, multiple units, over a couple of different training events now,” said Campbell. “This specific event during this exercise, which we’re in charge of proctoring, is a dismounted type of mobile patrol scenario. We’ve been tailoring the problems encountered to be disrupting maneuver warfare and inhibiting coalition forces, either towards humanitarian support and or direct support operations.”
The 115th FW invited the Marines and the rest of the EOD units at Audacious Warrior. Campbell explains that training opportunities shared with other units are reciprocated, creating opportunities to work with other units and more training in general.
“We invited them to IED Effects we put on months ago,” said Campbell. “We tailored it to what we do, how it normally would be employed and experienced at the Marine level, and we invited the Air Force to come out. They sent two teams. When we host the training, it’s a lot of planning, but when we go somewhere else, we get to fall under their ammo supplies, food, etc.”
Campbell emphasized the importance of training with other branches and units away from their home station.
“An eye-opener through all four of these iterations that we’ve worked with the Air National Guard is that the access to ranges is substantially larger than just what most units only have at their home stations,” said Campbell.