EOD Technicians Conduct EODEX 2019
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carla O
Two explosive ordnance disposal Marines, an Air Force EOD
technician and a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear
specialist Marine stood around a manhole, peering down at a dummy
with its limbs in unnatural positions ... a simulated casualty that
needed to be retrieved.
“Let’s put the robot down there,”
declared one of the Marines.
“Will it fit?” asked the Airman.
“Good question… Do you have a ruler?”
They peeked up at
each other, heads still down, eyes bouncing from one to the other in
silence for a beat.
“We can measure it with my rifle,”
declared a Marine.
“Works for me.”
And off they went,
pooling tools and resources, attaching one of EOD’s TALON robots to
CBRN’s multipod pulley system and lowering the robot into the
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Meyer and Sgt. Joseph Kenney carry a TALON robot to search for ordnance during an explosive ordnance disposal exercise at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan, September 17, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carla Elizabeth O)
“I really didn’t expect them to put the robot down there,” said
one of the scenario observers with a laugh. “But hey! If it works…”
This is exactly the sort of collaboration and innovation that
the designers and supervisors of EOD Exercise 2019 had hoped to see.
“Every scenario can be reset and rerun,” said U.S. Marine
Corps Master Sgt. Jason Hilker, an EOD technician with EOD Company,
9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group. “We
aren’t telling the Marines how to solve the problems - we aren’t
here to influence their decisions. We are only presenting problems.
I want to see what they come up with.”
For U.S. Marine Corps
Master Sgt. Joshua McLeod, EOD Company’s design and control chief
and the primary designer of this year’s exercise, the key words for
EODEX 19 were integration and innovation.
McLeod said that
when designing this exercise, he asked himself, “How can we train
more efficiently and more effectively collectively?”
end, the roughly 350 participants in this year’s exercise came from
all four branches of the U.S. military, including civilian
“The training has been really great,” said U.S.
Army Staff Sgt. James Ahn, an EOD technician and participant in this
year’s exercise from the 718th Army EOD Company, 23rd Chemical,
Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Defense Battalion,
2nd Sustainment Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. “It gives us a
chance to combine forces and see how each branch’s [tactics,
techniques and procedures] are so that when we have to work together
in the battlefield, whether it’s a known environment or an unknown
environment, we can mesh together and there shouldn’t be too many
U.S. service members sweep for land mines during an explosive ordnance disposal exercise at Kin Blue Training Area, Okinawa, Japan, September 19, 2019. The EOD exercise was designed to simulate conventional warfare and the use of conventional ordnance and involved the participation of three U.S. military branches and over 43 different military occupational specialties within III Marine Expeditionary Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carla O)
What participants said made this exercise particularly unique,
though, was the integration of military occupational specialties
from within the Marine Corps.
McLeod estimated that there
were 44 MOSs training to their training and readiness standard
during this year’s exercise.
“We speak about it all the time – train how we fight – but a lot
of times we get stuck in our box of ‘This is my specialty, this is
what I do and I train to this’,” said McLeod. “We want to take that
a step further and introduce a lot of the Marines to the assets and
capabilities that we have here on island that are true to form to
how they would actually operate if they were out in the [Marine
Expeditionary Force] or in the [Marine Air Ground Task Force].”
Among them were infantry Marines from the Tactical Readiness and
Training Platoon from Combat Logistics Regiment 37, motor
transportation operators and engineers from Combat Logistics
Regiment 35, Navy corpsmen, and others.
With the variety of
MOSs came tools and technologies that allowed the exercise’s
organizers to make the training more realistic.
to actually report and run a lot of our systems on our actual
network, on a tactical network, was key for us because very rarely
do we actually have that opportunity,” McLeod said. “The other one
was having the intelligence capability here. For EOD, a lot of the
time, we drive intelligence and intelligence drives what we do, so
in a scenario that’s not necessarily real, that’s hard to do. It’s
hard to simulate. So that’s what we were trying to do.”
Additive manufacturing was another technology utilized in this
“One of the problems that we had here, for
us, as we pivot from a non-conventional enemy to a more conventional
threat capability, is that we don’t have a lot of the training
aides,” McLeod said. “I can’t just dig through a dumpster now and
make an IED [Improvised Explosive Device] out of it. We have to
actually have real-world training items to do that and that’s very
difficult to do, and expensive on top of that if we’re getting the
actual ordnance items. So […] we went with the additive
manufacturing piece and we were able to manufacture approximately
300 foreign ordnance items scaled to form for the guys to actually
train off of. Now they have those actual ordnance items that they
could pick up, they could manipulate, they could manage, they could
do recons on, and they could actually do their jobs with.”
McLeod listed off a variety of EOD calls that service members
trained on during the exercise including anti-access/area denial
explosive hazards, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel
missions, mobility and counter-mobility, large scale disposal and
beach defense over the course of five different sites.
was unique,” McLeod admitted. “It was more unique than I thought it
was, I guess, because to me it was just Marines training at the end
of the day, but everyone has seemed to take an interest in it.”
McLeod estimated that they had a total of 17 different units
observe the exercise, as well as the Japanese Ground Self Defense
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ian Swain(right), Sgt. Jonathan Whitby, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Benjamen Dring prepare to locate and mark land mines during an explosive ordnance disposal exercise at Kin Blue Training Area, Okinawa, Japan, September 19, 2019. The EOD exercise was designed to simulate conventional warfare and the use of conventional ordnance and involved the participation of three U.S. military branches and over 43 different military occupational specialties within III Marine Expeditionary Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carla Elizabeth O)
Everyone involved agreed that repeating this sort of fully
integrated training would be a good idea.
other MOSs into our training has been very beneficial, they
brought equipment and capabilities that allowed us to
efficiently conduct operations in areas that we typically don't
encounter,” said U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Phil Mayer, an
EOD technician with EOD Company, 9th ESB, 3rd MLG, who
participated in the exercise. “We rarely conduct training with
other MOSs and I believe if more units trained like this it
would increase readiness, allowing us to effectively handle any
“I think it would be beneficial again,”
McLeod agreed. “But one of the things that I think you could do
is downgrade it to more of a platoon level, and if you do that,
it’s much, much more manageable. You could still bring the full
gamut of it of having CBRN Marines, your intelligence Marines,
your engineers, your infantrymen, your Motor-T operators and
whatnot, […] just keep it down on a much scaled down version.”
By shrinking the scale of the operation, McLeod said you
could really focus on the integral parts of what a platoon is
and how those platoon functions are driven.
eyes already on next year’s exercise, McLeod said, “If we get
enough traction from the requisite key players that came to
this, I think that’s something we could look at going forward.”
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