This weekend, the New York National Guard’s 1108th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company will be traveling north to assist the Canadian government in clearing nearly 6,000 pounds of unexploded bombs.
The 1108th, located at the Scotia Glenville Armed Forces Reserve Center since 2008, will leave Saturday for the exercise in Goose Bay, Ontario, and is expected to return two weeks later.
The EOD will be working to clear potential hazards from an old bombing range where 6 million pounds of explosives have been dropped in the past. Once the space has been rendered safe, the Canadian forces can repurpose it for military use.
Although clearing bombs that have been live since 1985 sounds like a daunting task, Staff Sgt. Stephen Emlaw says that the exercise will be pretty simple and straightforward for the experienced EOD crew.
“We won’t be wearing the heavy blast suits for this; the mission is very low risk because we know what to look for.”
Almost all of the members of the 1108th who will be traveling to Ontario have previously been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait. Emlaw says that the team has experience in much more dangerous situations with a wide range of weapons and devices, from tanks to improvised explosive devices.
First Sgt. Kevin Conklin is also a member of the 1108th EOD company. Conklin says that while they have been focused on deployments in the past, they are now able to move forward and hone the basic skills that go along with the services they provide.
EOD service members start out in basic training like all other soldiers, but the road to becoming an EOD specialist is a meticulous process. The military first requires an interview for acceptance into the training program. If a soldier doesn’t meet the specific qualifications necessary for the job, they won’t be accepted.
Then the course itself has a 50 percent rate of failure, making the EOD a very select group.
“Most guys don’t want to leave because we love the work so much,” added Conklin.
When it comes to EOD training, there’s no better way to learn than with firsthand experience. EOD members must be dependable and able to perform under extreme mental and physical stress. The heavy Kevlar bomb suits used during reconnaissance can weigh more than 80 pounds and become hot enough inside to cause heat stress.
“With a real-world threat, we have to have real-world training equipment,” explains Conklin as he shows the display of replica IEDs and robotic bomb detecting and disposal equipment. Conklin says that EOD’s are also trained to work with radioactive and nuclear devices.