In High-Stakes Business of Explosive Ordnance Disposal, ‘We Make Sure that We’re Ready’
By EVAMARINE SOCHA, Seapower Special Correspondent
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Force readiness is not an issue for a small, elite cadre of Navy divers and ordnance disposal experts, who can be found in military theaters worldwide protecting fleets both military and commercial, said an officer and instructor with this group.
“The caliber of people we have, I am confident in them,” Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kido, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) staff officer, said April 4 about this division under at the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. “This is a high-stakes business, and we make sure that we’re ready” on a moment’s notice.
With about 460 officers, the EOD unit is among the Navy’s smallest unrestricted line officer communities, said Kido, who himself is trained for this work. It has about 1,300 enlisted personnel.
Underwater mine countermeasures and unexplored ordnance are a main focus of the specialized Navy unit. The personnel protect naval and special operations against explosive underwater threats, finding and disarming or exploding rogue munitions. Some members may parachute or fly in by helicopter into certain missions, and can find themselves working with other Special Operations units, such as Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and Marine Expeditionary Units.
They also assist civilian law enforcement federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the FBI, as well as state and local police bomb squads when needed. They also assisted security at large international events, such as the Olympics or world summits.
Advanced technology helps these trained personnel in locating and detonating underwater mines, Kido said, though they also put themselves at great risk when diving to disarm them.
Members of this force are required to serve three years. For their efforts, EOD technicians get re-enlistment bonuses as well as dive, demolition, special duty assignment and jump pay. They also may qualify for foreign language pay.
This division owes it size to high standards and arduous training, Kido said. Over 12 to 18 months, candidates are schooled at the Naval School for Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Fla. Military personnel can enlist up to age 30 and must pass a rigorous set of physical tests that including hyperbaric pressure testing.
While exciting, the work is naturally dangerous, and personnel have been lost over the years. In May, the 48th annual memorial ceremony for those lost EOD personnel takes place at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.