‘Audacious Warrior’ training at Fort McCoy, Volk Field sharpens skills for explosive ordnance disposal

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EOD technicians defuse explosives in a light-sensitive, hostage training scenario during Audacious Warrior training at Volk Field. (Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs photo)

FORT MCCOY, Wis. (WKBT) — Airmen, Marines and soldiers from a wide range of units participated in a 10-day exercise focusing on explosive ordnance disposal at Fort McCoy and Volk Field to sharpen their skills and sync their techniques.

The 115th Fighter Wing hosted more than a dozen EOD units from across the country in the “Audacious Warrior” exercise from May 10 through Wednesday. The annual EOD training exercise included the 115th Fighter Wing Emergency Management and Security Forces, the 432nd Civil Affairs Army Reserve unit out of Green Bay and the Combat Logistics Battalion 22 out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“EOD has nine mission sets, and we try to exercise as many as possible here to get our three, five and seven levels more experience working in teams — especially teams they’re not used to working with,” explained Master Sgt. Matthew Vandermolen, logistics section chief of the 115th Fighter Wing who facilitated Audacious Warrior.

“We’re able to leverage all the equipment and training facilities that are available to us here,” Vandermolen said.

Security forces, EOD and emergency management generally don’t work together until there is a real-world emergency, he said. Exercises such as Audacious Warrior emphasize the importance of and provide an opportunity for these groups to train together to be better prepared for emergencies.

“We want to set each other up for success,” Vandermolen said, adding that security forces most likely will respond or find suspicious items first and then seek help.

If a situation includes a hazard, such as chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear] hazard, “we would then potentially request (emergency management) support. So, if we train appropriately, we know what each entity brings to the table and what they might be looking for when they show up on scene.”

Vandermolen also discussed the common occurrence of EOD working with other service branches and the necessity for EOD to be prepared for those calls.

Joint service support occurs mostly overseas in a contingency operations environment, he said.

“All EOD technicians attend the same technical school and receive the same baseline training, which can make it much more common for Air Force EOD teams to respond to calls for assistance from other branches,” Vandermolen said.

“We all speak a different language with our jargon or terms, and when we get up here we can hash some of that out,” he said. “It gets us all on the same page so that we can go operate together more efficiently.”

One of the responsibilities of an EOD member is building the improvised explosive devices or inert improvised explosive devices used for training.

However, Vandermolen explained that bomb makers tend to have a “signature,” varying techniques, methods and materials. Training only with members of their own EOD unit can limit exposure and training on defusing explosives.

“When you get thrown on a team with people you don’t know and they have different methods or preferences, you can add those thought processes and techniques to your skillset and bring them back to your unit,” Vandermolen said.

Exercises such as Audacious Warrior ensures that individual units have fewer blind spots in their training, he said.

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