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Explosive Ordnance Disposal has a blast

By Lance Cpl. Daniel Thomas | | August 8, 2002

It sounds like something straight out of a comic book or action-packed thriller. It has x-ray vision, a bomb-resistant suit, a 780-pound pet robot, and enough explosives to catch anyone's attention.

It's the station's explosive ordnance disposal team.

When people think about EOD they usually think of the Hollywood version where someone deactivates a bomb with only two seconds on the clock and breathes a sigh of relief, said Sgt. Nicholas J. Hillebrand, EOD technician, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.

"But that's not how it works, that's not at all how it is," said Hillebrand. "That would be the absolute last thing that would ever happen."

According to Hillebrand, the job is not much more dangerous than other jobs in the Marine Corps. He said it is just up to a person's perception.

"There is a significant level of danger in what we do but nothing that can't be offset with training and safety in mind," said Hillebrand.

Teamwork is a big part of the job, stated Hillebrand. Everyone has got to be able to pull their own load, he added.

To ensure EOD team members are capable of doing this, they must attend an eight-month military occupational specific school. The EOD field is also closed to new Marines allowing only lateral movers to fill its job openings; preferably noncommissioned officers.

"It's a very difficult school but so are a lot of MOS schools," said Hillebrand. "We look at our job as pretty much an extension of our existence."

If EOD doesn't do its job right, then it literally won't exist, explained Hillebrand.

It is because of this that safety is a big issue.

"As far as demolitions go, one person is always the range safety officer and will not have anything to do with the explosives as far as handling them," said Sgt. Jonathan G. Vasiliauskas, EOD technician, H&HS.

"Our rule is if you don't know what something is or don't know how to handle it just ask someone," said Vasiliauskas.

"We have to be really humble in this field," he added.

According to Vasiliauskas, in the field you could be a sergeant helping and telling a master sergeant how to handle a situation. Being able to help each other as a team is what makes the job so great, he stated.

The EOD team tries to plan a grade three operation at least once a month, said Vasiliauskas. A grade three operation is the destroying of ammunition that is unserviceable.

The destroying of unserviceable ammunition gives EOD a chance to train.

"It lets us assess our new technicians and lets us train for positions that we may not have worked before," said Vasiliauskas.

During the grade three operations EOD can destroy many things ranging from ejection seat cartridges and smoke bombs to missiles that didn't arm, added Vasiliauskas.

However, EOD does not just do grade three operations.

"That's the fun part, getting to see stuff go boom," said Staff Sgt. Carl W. Holden, EOD operations chief, H&HS. "But the job is more technical than that especially since 9/11."

Since Sept. 11, EOD has been receiving more tools, said Holden.

"If there is an explosive device we have the capability and the tools necessary to handle those things; to protect people and their property," said Holden.

EOD has bomb suits that weigh 50 pounds but are surprisingly mobile, explained Holden. They also have a 75-thousand dollar robot, which is used for homemade explosives out in town or in training applications.

The robot is equipped with a shotgun mount, video cameras, and can be operated remotely.

"There're some things out there that we can't and will never train with but for the most part we have a lot," said Holden.

"Our basic mission is to support and take care of the station but our range is a lot broader," Holden added.

According to Holden, EOD reacts to about two dozen bomb threats a year and also does some secret service support.

"One of the best things about the job is that you never go through the same thing twice," said Holden. "It's challenging and it makes you think."

Right now EOD is low on Marines and is looking for lateral-movers, said Holden.

"We're always looking to add someone else to the team," said Holden. "We're looking for senior corporals or junior sergeants."
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