After a rigorous week of competition, one team rose to the top of the U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team of the Year competition at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, July 22 through 26.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Hamilton and Sgt. Tyler Kinney, 763rd Ordnance Company from Fort Leonard Wood, won the weeklong competition. Staff Sgt. Xavier Steinhart and Sgt. Benjamin Livesay, 74th Ord. Co., from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, were awarded second place honors. Staff Sgt. Michael Epshtein and Sgt. Shaun Chesterman, 46th Chemical Co., from Fort Bliss, Texas, were recognized with third place.
The Army EOD Team of the Year event is designed to improve readiness of EOD professionals. The participating military members can hone their skills in a physically and mentally demanding environment as EOD technicians and improve their abilities to respond to situations as required, enabling them to better perform their duties at home and in a deployed environment.
Kinney said he and his teammate, Hamilton were more than prepared for the challenge.
“We honestly didn’t change anything different from how we normally train, and that’s how it should be,” Kinney said. “If you’re training, it should be realistic. Realistic training gives you the ability to apply it to any type of environment, whether it’s a training scenario or on the battlefield.”
Hamilton said since he finds himself at ease with EOD-specific lanes, he focused on building up his physical fitness before the competition.
“I spent most of my effort training cardio and running, because I have known that those are my weaker areas,” Hamilton said. “That self-awareness paid dividends and allowed me to receive the award for the highest ACFT score out of the competitors.”
The event was designed to test Soldiers’ teamwork and critical-thinking skills as they apply technical solutions to real-world problems. The six teams of two Soldiers were assessed on 14 EOD operations and associated tasks to provide EOD support to large-scale combat operations to eliminate and/or reduce explosive threats. The assessed tasks are centered upon detecting, identifying, conducting on-site evaluation, rendering safe, exploiting and final disposition, and were designed to be accurate for what they would expect to see in the field.
“The Team of the Year Competition is as real as it gets,” Kinney said. “Very realistic, even down to the cigarette butts and old pizza boxes found at an HME lab that we process for evidence.”
Hamilton agreed that it was realistic, but added he would like to see more challenging lanes in the future.
“In future competitions I would like to see more challenging EOD lanes that focus on new TTPs or even lanes that have made up never-seen-before TTPs to challenge our motto of ‘Initial Success or Total Failure.’”
The week allowed teams to display their respective units’ skills as participants respond to tasks in a physically and mentally demanding training environment. The training events are designed to test the participants’ knowledge and master of tasks within their respective occupational skill sets.
The military occupational specialty for EOD is 89D. They are the Army’s tactical and technical explosives experts, and Hamilton encourages those who are curious or feel they are not being challenged enough to check out the career field.
“If you want to work in a fast-paced environment where the decisions you make save lives, then EOD may be the job for you,” he said.
(Editor’s note: Information provided by Master Sgt. Jeff Duran, 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Public Affairs Office.)