MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Explosive Ordnance Disposal is not the easiest military occupational skill to get into.
For one thing, the field is composed entirely of, and will only accept, career Marines who have made a lateral move into the MOS. And making that lateral move can be a pretty tough thing to do.
"We don't want good Marines in this field," said Chief Warrant Officer-4 Gary R. Parsons, officer in charge of Station EOD. "We want the best the Marine Corps has to offer because of what we do. My life depends on the other Marines (in EOD) and vice-versa. There may only be two EOD technicians on a job, and regardless of rank, our lives depend on each other."
The field is unique by nature, Parsons said. There is no difference between wartime or peacetime operations for EOD technicians, because everything they do is "real world."
"Take a Marine from every MOS in the Marine Corps, throw them all into a melting pot and send them to school," said Staff Sgt. Jesse McGinnis, an EOD technician from Marine Wing Support Squadron-374, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. "EOD is what will come out."
McGinnis moved into EOD because he felt he knew all there was to know about his former MOS, he said. If he had not gone into EOD, he most likely would not have stayed in the Marine Corps.
"I enjoy the fact that you never stop learning," he said. "You will never know it all in this field."
Marines thinking of moving into EOD had better be sure it's what they want, though, said Sgt. Nicholas Hillebrand, Station EOD technician. If they don't have the conviction for EOD or are just feeling out their options, then they may as well not even try to make a lateral move.
"EOD is for people who want to be here," he said. "It is a totally volunteer MOS I could turn in my badge whenever I want and just walk away. I would never do that, though, because I just love my job."
Although EOD does "blow things up," a lot more is involved with the job, Parsons said. Technicians learn to build, take apart and render safe artillery munitions, bombs, rockets, nuclear missiles, improvised explosive devices, weapons of mass destruction and everything in between.
The field is also responsible for providing emergency services in support of airfield operations, clearing bombing ranges of unexploded ordnance and providing force protection/counter terrorism for military bases and their surrounding communities, he added.
"This job is not for everybody," said Gunnery Sgt. Carl Holden, Station EOD technician. "It takes a certain kind of individual to be EOD, someone who wants to accept the challenge of a job as potentially dangerous as this."
There are many dangers in the field, but EOD technicians feel it's no more dangerous than everyday life, said Chief Warrant Officer-2 Larry Miyamoto, officer in charge of MWSS-371 EOD.
"Sure we have a dangerous job," Miyamoto said. "But we follow basic principles to stay alive. Driving is just as dangerous, but if you follow basic driving rules stay right of center line, use turning signals and seat belts you stay alive. "Everyone does dangerous things every day and just doesn't realize it."
Explosive Ordnance Disposal is just more conscious of the rules they need to abide by, which are dictated by the various ordnance items they encounter, he added. They know that taking things for granted and becoming complacent can get them killed.
If Marines feels they have what it takes to become an EOD technician, the first thing they need to do is contact their career planner, Parsons said. The career planner will set up an interview with the local EOD team, which usually only takes about two days. Marines also need to be prepared to run a physical fitness test when they do their interview.
But before running off to the local EOD unit, Marines need to understand they will also end up devoting time to secondary duties, such as supply, maintenance, training and motor transport, Miyamoto added.
"Sometimes it will feel like you are a jack-of-all-trades and master of none," Miyamoto said. "However, EOD technicians have become proficient in all trades, because that's the type of Marines we have and need in our field."
Holden recommends spending a day with the local EOD team, he said. Most of the time they will take Marines out for a day so they can see what they are getting in to.
"If you're ready to be challenged, then step up to the plate," Holden said. "Not a day will go by you won't be challenged. You won't regret it for a second."