MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- The mission of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician is to identify conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear ordnance and improvised explosive devices and render them safe.
Some examples of the ordnance EOD technicians come in contact with include warheads, artillery rounds, nerve agents and grenades.
“There are not many (military occupational specialties) where you get to blow stuff up,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Schuchhardt, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron EOD technician. “Not only that, but you can also find different ways to blow the ordnance up.
Before Marines can become EOD technicians, they must first go through the MOS school at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. In those seven months, Marines learn the basics about conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
“If I couldn’t do this, I wouldn’t do anything else in the Marine Corps,” said Schuchhardt, who has spent 12 years as an EOD technician. “One of the good things about this MOS is that you can never learn it all. It definitely never gets boring. You are constantly learning. There are so many different ordnances out there in the world. As many countries as there are in the world, each one produces their own. So that means there are thousands and thousands of different types of ordnance, and there is no way to ever know them all. That’s why there are constant publications coming out about all the different types of ordnance out there. The publications also explain how the ordnance works and how to defeat it.”
In the EOD field, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma is considered a break from the fast pace other units deal with, said Schuchhardt.
“The operation tempo for this MOS is very upbeat,” added Schuchhardt. “At one point in two years, I deployed three times. I’ve known Marines that have gone as far as Kosovo and helped find old ordnance there. EOD technicians have plenty of opportunities to deploy. We can be a part of the Unit Deployment Program, Westpac (shipboard deployments), medical (shipboard deployments) and Force Service Support Groups.”
Despite the fast-paced tempo of an EOD technician, it’s not always that way in Yuma.
“Right now, we are in garrison mode,” said Schuchhardt. “We are keeping up with MOS training, physical training, gear accountability, maintenance of our tools and proficiency with those tools.”
It’ll be nice to go out in the field and apply the training received in school for those seven months, said Sgt. John Fury, a recent lateral mover from the ammunition technician field.
“In March, we will be going to the Chocolate Mountains and getting some hands-on experience,” said Fury. “We have to go through and conduct sweeps on the range so that they can rebuild the targets for the pilots.”
Schuchhardt remembered one of his favorite moments as an EOD technician while on a deployment to Iraq.
“There was a thousand pound bomb in the median between a north and south highway. In the surrounding area was a bunch of apartments and Iraqi civilians. This was one of those bombs with a crazy fuse that you just don’t touch or else it might blow up. This was a rare occasion where we didn’t want the bomb to explode. We evacuated the entire southern part of the town. So after some time, we finally got the go ahead and did all the protective measures in order to render the bomb safe. Once we did that, it was the greatest feeling in the world. For everything to go exactly as we planned — it was incredible. At that time, we felt like we had actually accomplished something. We couldn’t evacuate everybody, so the last thing we wanted to do was hurt anybody.”
Despite the apparent dangers of being an EOD technician, Schuchhardt believes that is a common misconception.
“When people think about EOD, they automatically think ‘Oh no, I don’t want to get blown up,’” said Schuchhardt. “But, that’s why we have publications that we follow. They are there for us to adhere by to do our job and do it safely. As long as we follow the standard operating procedure, there is no reason why anything should happen.”
Part of what makes all EOD Marines so close is the potential danger EOD technicians can experience, said Schuchhardt.
“This MOS is something else; we have a different form of camaraderie. Part of it may be because you have to look your partner in the eye and say ‘OK, I’m going to go down range now.’ You know the risk you are taking each time you go down range and handle ordnance. The danger just may be what brings us so close together. You never know what’s going to happen and who it’s going to happen to.”
In addition to the camaraderie EOD shares, becoming an EOD technician is also a dream for some in the Marine Corps.
In order for Marines to make a lateral move as EOD technicians, they must have at least 36 months in the Corps and hold the rank of sergeant or above.
“I knew what EOD was before I joined the Marine Corps,” said Fury. “I also knew in order to attend the EOD school, I had to become a sergeant first. That’s part of what made me work so hard in the first three years of my career. I’m completely fascinated with ordnance. There are not many places where you can get paid to blow stuff up.”