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902nd CES explosive ordnance disposal unit keeps JBSA safe

By Mary Nell Sanchez | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | June 17, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —

Potentially dangerous packages and items come in all shapes and sizes.

Military training areas, like Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, or training target areas for fighter aircraft, like the F-16 Fighting Falcon, may have unidentified and potentially dangerous explosive devices hidden in the ground. A grandparent may have taken a "trophy" home after military service that's discovered in an attic.

The explosive ordnance disposal is continuously on alert and ready to safely handle any potential explosive-related danger that could be lurking.

“We are the military version of the bomb squad,” said Master Sgt. Phillip Dyer, 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron EOD flight chief.

The EOD has been tasked with examining suspect items and suspicious packages. One of the most common places they are sent to is JBSA-Camp Bullis, Dyer said.

The EOD answers four to six calls a month there and have found buried items such as hand grenades from World Wars I and II, as well as projectiles. Some of these explosive devices were discovered during training exercises. All of these items are classified as UXOs, or unexploded ordnance.

An UXO is an explosive weapon that did not explode when it was employed and could still pose a risk of detonation, many decades after it was used or discarded. UXOs could be bombs, bullets, shells, grenades or land minds.

“It could pose a threat to people who train in the vicinity,” said Staff Sgt. Dustin Jenson, 902nd CES EOD team member. “When we find an UXO, we normally dispose of it by detonation.”

The detonation is controlled and assures the safest possible outcome, Jenson said.

Another type of explosive EOD handles is called an improvised explosive device, which is a homemade bomb used by unofficial or unauthorized forces. An example of one would be a roadside bomb.  

Each IED poses a different potential for harm because of their homemade nature and how varied they can be, Dyer said.

“You don’t know who is going to be in the area when it goes off,” Dyer added. “Depending on what condition it’s in and how close people are, it can cause death or injury.”

Every call the EOD responds to holds an element of uncertainty, but Dyer said continuous training will keep them ready. 

“We take safety very seriously,” he said.

Every assignment EOD undertakes and its success is made possible with preparation and training for all kinds of scenarios. 

EOD is required to train at least twice a year. Those exercises are conducted at JBSA-Lackland Medina Annex and can range from clearing active operational ranges to detonating weapons.

“Staying proficient in everything we do keeps us sharp and focused,” Dyer said. “The day we get complacent and quit training is the day when one of us gets injured.”

EOD also conducts bomb detection exercises with military working dogs and handlers. When a canine detects an IED, the EOD supports the mission by identifying and disposing of it, whether that is by disarming or safely detonating it.

While continuous drills keep EOD ready for response at any JBSA installation, their service also extends beyond the JBSA gates.

“We go out on a lot of temporary duty assignments to support missions with the Secret Service and state department when dignitaries need to be protected, like president and foreign dignitaries,” Jenson said.

Every day brings new potential for danger and EOD is ready to keep JBSA and anyone else safe while at home or abroad because they’re mission ready.