DEVENS, Mass. – With three quick shouts of “fire in the hole”, the trunk of the car blasts open and sends dust, debris and training aids scattering into the air. This is just one of many training exercises that took place over the two week annual training period in July for the 387th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company here.
The 387th EOD, based out of Camp Edwards, has been tasked with several diverse missions over the past year, including filling in for an Active Duty unit in Germany, team leader certification training in Puerto Rico, deployed to Kosovo, security operations for the inauguration and responding to potential, improvised explosive devices incidents after the Boston Marathon Bombings.
In general, EOD units deal with a range of threats including unexploded ordnance, IEDs, chemical, biological, and nuclear ordnance and Weapons of Mass Destruction. EOD technicians are tasked to locate, identify, defuse and dispose of the ordnance. Before a Soldier can become an EOD technician, they must go through 39 weeks of advanced individual training to earn their basic EOD badges and become Army EOD technicians, but the training doesn’t stop there. Training is a year round process, not only to maintain readiness for an ever changing world climate, but also required to understand each specific mission a unit may be tasked with.
While the 387th deployed to Kosovo for 11 months, Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Shields, state command sergeant major, Wisconsin National Guard, worked with the unit and praised their skill.
“They were tasked with not only responding to EOD missions, but they were also tasked with training the Kosovo EOD force to function independently,” said Shields. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years and they are one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with. They responded to hundreds of ordnance that were found and were able to perform at an outstanding level of professionalism.”
When the two pressure cooker bombs detonated during the Boston Marathon on April 15th the 387th EOD Company was quickly activated to assist the local authorities.
Spc. Christopher Thompson, a team member in the 387th, was one of the Soldiers activated to assist in the response to the Boston Bombings.
“It was a terrible event, but it was great that we were able to help,” said Thompson. “To be able to participate at that level was fantastic. That is the type of mission we are here for.”
The commander of the unit, Capt. Matthew Flemming, said the unit consistently trains so they are prepared to adapt to any situation.
“The ideal EOD tech is always willing to learn and capable to adapt,” said Flemming. “Boston was a very fast paced environment that we were able to adapt to. Within a half hour, we had a truck out responding like a normal full-time unit. I was very impressed that as a part time National Guard unit we were able to respond so quickly.”