by Thea Skinner
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
The Airmen of the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight are part of an on the ground, hands-on Air Force career field that inspired young Junior ROTC cadets Sept. 10.
Twenty Mitchell High School JROTC cadets learned the ins and outs of protecting the nation from explosive devices during a demonstration on base. The Peterson EOD unit dismantles devices such as improvised explosive devices, bombs and landmines within the United States and overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Demonstrations give cadets an opportunity to see the Air Force,” said Airman 1st Class Jeremy Redfern, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, EOD journeyman. “We are out there doing range clearances in Iraq.”
Throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, Airmen help dismantle IEDs and landmines, clearing routes for convoys and securing areas for reconstruction. EOD Airmen also sweep hotels and rooms where key personnel lodge. Tools of the trade include operational robots for disposals and tracking of bombs and bomb suits.
“Depending on the situation we will use a robot first to detonate a bomb,” said Airman 1st Class Erik Schadler 21st CES, EOD journeyman. “An IED can be anything the creator can think — coke bottles, packed carcasses and MRE (Meal, Ready-To-Eat) bags.”
Airman Schadler attended schooling for about eight months learning ordnance first and taking numerous tests along the way to become certified.
“A lot of what we do is ingenuity for ourselves,” said Airman 1st Class John Medina 21st CES, EOD journeyman as he described the F6A robot, which they fondly refer to as the Hurt Locker. “No scenario is the same,”
In order to search an aircraft, the robot’s tires are removed, so it can fit down the isle of a airplane, said Airman Medina.
The robots are used to prevent placing Airmen in the bomb suits and in harms way. Four robots ranging from tractor size to man portable reside at the Peterson EOD shop.
Airmen in the EOD career field deploy about as often as they’re at home. While at home, Airmen train in various exercises such as Ranger Days that occur once a month.
Staff in the shop engaged in the Bomb Squad Response Transportation Systems exercise on the Denver West Corridor Light Rail in August. The Colorado Springs Police Department’s Bomb Squad also participated.
The JROTC demonstration was part of the Curriculum in Action Program, where cadets tour a base.
“Anytime cadets get to see something real world they get excited about it,” said retired Lt. Col. Keith Woodfork, overseeing the school’s JROTC group. “We have a great relationship with Peterson. We appreciate the support.”
The demonstration complements the JROTC space curriculum.
“Every year we go to an installation,” he said. “This allows them to see first-hand how it relates to our curriculum. Every year about 41 of our seniors go into the military. This year we had over 50 percent of our senior class pursue a military career.”