JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
When coming across a large metal sphere that you suspect could contain approximately 300 pounds of explosives, you should probably bring in the experts – in this case, the 902nd Civil Engineering Squadron’s explosive ordnance disposal team at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
On Sept. 17, the team got a call concerning a suspected live naval mine that had come ashore at the upper Texas coast town of Matagorda, Texas, located between Port O’Conner and Galveston, after a tropical storm and local flooding. The JBSA-Lackland EOD is responsible for responding to explosives-related emergency calls in the southern half of Texas.
“We have what we call a ‘cradle-to-grave’ responsibility,” said Staff Sgt. Curtis Belew, one of the EOD team leaders who responded to the call. “They call us because we take care of any military ordnance items.”
In this particular case, the team looked at some photos of the found mine, and decided that it warranted investigation. They suspected it might be a training mine, but training mines still have a small charge in them which could be harmful to the person.
“We wound up going down there and using a portable X-ray to verify that there were no explosives in it,” Belew said. Instead, the mine contained only concrete.
The team gets plenty of “live” items, however. One of their more unusual cases turned out to be a call about a souvenir taken from World War I – a German stick grenade. Luckily the team was called again, and no one was injured.
“We get live explosive items from JBSA-Camp Bullis,” said Staff Sgt. Eli Marquez, another of the EOD technicians and team leads. “It’s usually pretty old stuff, leftover from when JBSA-Camp Bullis used to be a training range.”
Both Airmen enjoy the variety that the job offers – from working sea mines and stick grenades, to surveying venues in cooperation with the Secret Service.
“The nice thing is that we are allowed to go to training events with these agencies we work with,” Belew said. “So most of us have been to Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and FBI training – as well as training offered by the other branches.”
For those who can handle the stringent academic and physical requirements, the career of the EOD technician seems pretty interesting. The team members said it is a misconception that they simply train all the time and rarely apply their knowledge.
“We just like to blow stuff up and have a good time,” joked Belew.