JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The 433rd Airlift Wing's mission statement is to "Provide Combat Ready Citizen Airmen Anywhere, Anytime." On Feb. 9-10, 433rd Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technicians demonstrated that mission focus through several training exercises with the 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
Master Sgt. James Gonzales, 433rd CES EOD training section supervisor, was there to evaluate his team during the EOD exercise.
According to Gonzales, his team performed a super unit training assembly; a combination of January, February and March UTAs, totaling six days.
The first few days were spent doing administrative-related tasks, and the rest were spent focused on joint training and practicing skills involved with EOD response, said Gonzales.
"This morning, we did a chemical operation exercise,” he said. “Our team was tasked to respond and resolve the issue that involves chemical ordnance or chemical agents."
Gonzales evaluated his team as they practiced several different exercises. "Each problem has a unique situation; adjusting fire, thinking and responding,” he said. “We try to change the scenario when performing these drills because we get lackadaisical if we do the same thing repeatedly."
According to Staff Sgt. Wesley Curfman, 433rd CES EOD journeyman, it’s a meticulous job to respond to ordnance situations such as detonating and demolishing hazardous munitions, pyrotechnics and outdated explosives.
There are distinct differences between classroom and field training, according to Curfman.
"We can receive pictures and slide presentations all day, but we never really know until we get hands-on with the tools and equipment we will be working with,” he said. “That is the benefit of in-person training."
For instance, the EOD team conducted a scenario with a Texas Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing at JBSA-Lackland.
"If there ever is a problem and we get called out to, let us say, an F-16, we should know where the safeties are on the aircraft and be able to mitigate any hazards that arise," Curfman said.
One of the challenges during the training was communication among various team members while still accomplishing the mission safely and effectively, he said.
"Communicating what I would like to see done, acknowledging how the other person may operate, incorporating that into the plan, and just carrying on with business was difficult," he said. “However, it was a learning experience and we managed to figure it out.”
In addition to streamlining communication efforts, safety is a massive priority for the EOD team, said Gonzales.
"Getting in a safe training environment is getting us ready for real-life response calls, such as dealing with outside agencies, security forces, fire departments, etc.," he said.
Gonzales said the training also helps to prevent any injuries when responding to scenarios.
"It prevents loss of life, loss of limb, and loss of any infrastructure that we come across while keeping everyone safe and resolving the issue," he said.
From their training time, EOD expanded their library of knowledge on how to treat different scenarios in their career field, said Gonzales.
"Because of our training, we are now better prepared for real-world situations when we deploy," he said.