CHEYENNE – Wyoming Army National Guard aviators and medics teamed up with the 90th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, for a training exercise at Pole Mountain, Aug. 1.
UH-60 Black Hawk pilots and crews transported two three-man teams of EOD airmen into the remote training area west of Cheyenne to perform a notional exercise based on a terrorist insurgency in a war zone.
As part of the scenario, the insurgents had hidden a weapons cache which was detected through intelligence and aerial reconnaissance. The insurgents left the area booby trapped with land mines and improvised explosive devices to protect their cache. And, as would be the case in real combat, EOD was called in to dismantle or destroy the bombs and collect evidence.
Tech. Sgt. Douglas Smith is the training section chief with the 90th EOD. His, and the other senior leaders’ goal for the exercise was to get some of his younger troops into the field for some realistic training before they deploy overseas at some point.
“Most of the young guys haven’t deployed yet, so we’re trying to give them a shot in the arm and pass on some of the knowledge to get them ready,” Smith explained. “This area is a lot like Afghanistan so it’s a good location.”
“I encourage you to make mistakes,” Smith told his airmen after they left the Black Hawk and prepared to approach their objectives. “Here in training is the place to do that. I also encourage you to be bad asses and burn right through it-take some risks and make some hard decisions.”
Among the day’s hard decisions was one for Tech. Sgt. Devin Long, an EOD team leader, who detected an IED buried along a road. Slowly and methodically he probed the site and went about unearthing enough of the device, by hand, to attach a line to a crude, homemade pressure plate, designed to trigger an artillery round.
The team practices for many operations and situations, but when it comes down to being face-to-face with the explosive device, the decision of what technique to deploy comes down to that individual who goes forward, and in this case, Long wasn’t totally satisfied with his effort.
“I was trying to separate the pressure plate from the 105 round, so I could detonate it and keep the pressure plate for evidence,” Long said after triggering both devices. “The whole thing went off. Really, it’s okay with me, it makes the whole thing a little easier.”
After all of the explosives were found and disposed of, and the airmen shared their lessons learned and discussed what went right and what went wrong, the training event continued into a casualty scenario.
The EOD team had a medic attached from the 90th Medical Operations Squadron who was tasked with simulating injuries on three of the airmen-role players. Midway through the application of the moulage treatment, the skies opened up for a thunderstorm and downpour.
Nonetheless, the EOD personnel called up a nine-line report to the Army helicopter crews, and set about treating their injured colleagues on the ground in preparation for the medical evacuation. The airmen were met by Army flight medics on board the Black Hawk who took the litter patients aboard and took over the medical treatment en route to a notional hospital.
Smith was very pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Army National Guard and looks forward to more team training.
“The DOD strategic vision is to have more integration, so this is so good on so many levels,” he added.