SAN ANTONIO – In the realm of military installations, Joint Base San Antonio stands as a vital hub of activity, where countless personnel train, work and collaborate.
Amidst the day-to-day operations, a lesser-known yet crucial unit plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safety and security of the base and its surroundings — the Emergency Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team.
The EOD team at JBSA-Lackland consists of highly trained and skilled individuals who specialize in identifying, evaluating and disposing of explosive ordnance, including unexploded bombs, munitions and hazardous materials.
Their work goes beyond the base’s confines, extending to support civilian authorities in emergencies and natural disasters, thereby underscoring the team’s vital role in maintaining regional safety.
“That way, if we get called out and, let’s say somebody’s uncle died and they have a couple of ordnance items in their house. If we have to go in and assist them, they’ll know exactly how we work and we’ll know exactly how they work,” EOD Team Leader JJ Hargrove said.
Becoming a member of the EOD team is no easy task. Prospective team members undergo extensive training that covers a wide range of subjects, including explosive physics, electronics, robotics and chemical safety. This comprehensive training equips them with the knowledge and skills to handle diverse and potentially dangerous situations.
“It’s a lot of physical, but at the same time, it’s a lot of mental too,” Hargrove said. “If you’re not good at remembering things, or you’re not good at following procedure or like doing things to a T, (then) you’re not going to make it in this career field.”
The EOD team at JBSA-Lackland is armed with state-of-the-art technology and equipment, including advanced robotics for remote handling and disposal of explosive devices.
These tools not only enhance the safety of the team members but also enable them to neutralize threats while minimizing risks to the surrounding environment efficiently.
“Luckily, we are on the cutting edge of having technology here,” Hargrove said. “We have two new robot systems that are brand new to the career field, to the actual whole military. We have our medium-sized robot that we’ll get pictures of in a minute that allows us to be completely remote. That way, we don’t have to go down ourselves to a suspicious item or on a suspicious package or an actual IED. Then, we have another larger robot that we have for everyday response that helps us overnight as well.”
Staff Sgt. Bradley Hanks said the Air Force didn’t have EOD teams until the mid-1940′s.
He said the British were the first generation of explosive ordnance disposal technicians.
“It was the British that first came up with bomb disposal as kind of a career,” Hanks said. “Prior to that, explosives have been around since the 10th century, but really up until the Battle of Britain during World War II, when the British were just getting bombed daily by the Germans. They had a lot of unexploded ordnance lying around, and people couldn’t go about their normal jobs. So, they had to come up with somebody that could take care of these bombs that hadn’t exploded yet.” Hanks said
Technology quickly advancing and weaponry becoming increasingly complex, the American Armed Forces understood the demand for EOD.
“So, they created this profession, bomb disposal technicians, and they basically were the guys charged with going out there and removing these fuses and making these bombs safe to move and eventually dispose of,” Hanks said.
While the EOD team at JBSA-Lackland may operate behind the scenes, their contributions to safety, security and regional stability are nothing short of remarkable.
Their unwavering dedication, rigorous training and use of advanced technology make them the unsung heroes who ensure the safety of the base and its surrounding areas.
“So, during the global war on terror, the enemy started using improvised explosive devices a lot. And so we became a core component to the mission, because without us, we didn’t have freedom of movement,” Senior Airman David Ethan Lane said. “We couldn’t do anything about those IED’s blowing up everywhere. So, that’s kind of where EOD came really into the spotlight.”
As we appreciate the many moving parts that make up a military installation like JBSA-Lackland, it’s crucial to recognize and applaud the vital role played by the EOD team in keeping us all safe.
“We need experts that are able to identify that problem, render it safe and mitigate the hazard,” Lane said. “Without us, I’m not sure who would do that in the Air Force.”
JBSA-Lackland’s EOD supports the entire South Texas region — including 57 counties and 14 military installations — training numerous times throughout the year with civilian bomb squads on interoperability.
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