Story and photos by Sgt. Apolonia Gaspar | 71st Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Public Affairs Office
Editor’s note: The following story includes Soldiers with 3rd Ordnance Battalion out of Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington, and 79th Ordnance Battalion out of Fort Hood, Texas, both battalions fall under the 71st Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) based at Fort Carson.
FORT HOOD, Texas — Technicians with 71st Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) completed two weeks of Special Operations Forces (SOF) Support Training at Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 9-20, 2021.
Seasoned team leaders and senior NCOs with 71st EOD have designed a highly specialized SOF Support Training (SST) program that brought lessons learned in combat directly to Soldiers preparing to deploy.
The SST is resolute in carrying out its vital mission to the program. This is defined by the program’s mission statement: “An organic EOD program focused on applying structured methodology within scenario-based tactical training meant to enhance EOD direct support to special operations forces.”
Staff Sgt. Brian Bell, an EOD technician with 759th Ordnance Company (EOD), 3rd Ordnance Battalion, has been an observer, controller/trainer (OC/T) and brought his experience and knowledge to the program.
“This program is a great way to have EOD techs hone their skills while also learning how to integrate with these elements and learn what all they can bring to the fight for future deployments,” said Bell.
The SST consisted of a crawl-walk-run approach during the two-week course. Throughout the duration of the program, the OC/Ts led the students through a series of events and lanes, such as helicopter landing zone (HLZ) clearance, breach clearance and react to an improvised explosive device (IED).
“It’s very important for the students coming out of the schoolhouse or have been doing conventional EOD for years because they have never had that experience with SOF or understand what they are about,” said Staff Sgt. Corey Rinn, an EOD technician and OC/T with 797th Ordnance Company, 79th Ordnance Battalion. “So, this gives us the opportunity to show them what to expect.”
From student to observer, Rinn has completed the course and has returned to teach others about the wide variety of techniques and procedures they can learn from.
“As a student then and now as an OC/T, I’ve seen the progression it has made,” said Rinn. “Everything the students said (suggested for improvements) during the after action reviews (AAR), (the 71st EOD) had incorporated it so it helps you as a student.”
Rinn said the class helps the students see things from a different view and helps them understand how useful and beneficial the class is as they experience deployments.
Sgt. 1st Class Jared Miller, operations NCO and SST NCO in charge, 71st EOD, oversaw the program and ensured the training was appropriately focused to best compliment the Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) they support during deployments. His team of professional NCO cadre and 797th Ordnance Company made sure ranges and training sites were available and scheduled and were also responsible for providing resources to facilitate the Soldiers’ advanced training.
“I believe what we are doing is creating well-rounded and adaptable EOD techs for SOF,” said Bell. “You (have) to be ready for anything. You (have) to be willing to put in the effort.”
From the sites used for training to multiple situational training exercise lanes which consisted of IED clearances; there was much planning and detail that went into the complex exercise.
To be successful in a SOF environment, EOD techs were not only expected to be adaptable, but capable of executing in a fast and stressful environment.
The next SST is scheduled for October 2021.