US Marine, Army EOD technicians compete at Dragon Crab
RODRIGUEZ LIVE-FIRE COMPLEX, GYEONGGI, Republic of Korea -- Explosive ordnance disposal technicians with the U.S. Marine Corps and Army participated in Exercise Dragon Crab June 24-26 at Rodriguez Live-Fire Complex, Republic of Korea.
The competition consisted of eight, three-man teams and provided an opportunity for EOD technicians to learn from peers and senior technicians, as well as allowing the technicians to sharpen their skills.
“It’s on the older guys to put the newer ones into a situation they are uncomfortable with,” said U.S. Marine Chief Warrant Officer Rafael Martinez, an EOD technician and evaluator for the competition with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “They are here to learn from their failures.”
Service members with the ROK Army also attended the competition to observe the EOD teams working through each scenario.
“It is good to see how others react to a scenario and how they are trained to deal with different types of situations,” said Master Sgt. Sunjgong Kim, a 707 Special Forces Counter Terrorism member with the ROK Army.
The first scenario the ROK soldiers observed was a hostage situation. The mock hostage was taped to a chair with a simulated pipe bomb around their neck. The scenario required the technicians to practice disabling the inert device using their hands as opposed to working from a safe distance away. The technicians stayed near the hostage to keep them calm and could not wear a bomb suit because the tight space would not allow it.
The technicians X-rayed the area to disable the device and proceeded to remove the pipe bomb by hand.
“We would have followed the same procedures, like taking care of the captive first, calming them down,” said Kim. “But, we would have to X-ray more places that were difficult to see, like under the chair.”
During the competition, there were eight scenarios, each worth up to 50 points. The teams had two and a half hours to complete each one.
“If they cause casualties, they lose all of their points,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Hank Soukup, an EOD officer with G-3, operations, III MEF, and competition evaluator. “If the team has safety issues, inaccurate readings of their X-rays, poor robot skills, or does the wrong procedure, they also lose points.”
The competition included scenarios requiring knowledge from various parts of the job field for the participants to solve them.
“There are hostages, improvised explosive devices, chemicals, weapons caches, robot lanes, remote fuses, mechanical impact ridges, hook and line, and ordnance identification lane scenarios taking place in the competition,” said Soukup, a Lorena, Texas, native.
This is the second year the competition has taken place, and one is already planned for next year to keep the EOD technicians proficient at their job.
Knowing the fundamentals of EOD are more important than new tools and technology, according to Martinez, a San Jose, California, native. The more distance between the EOD technicians and a device, coupled with the time that passes after the detonation, make up the ground rules for survival as an EOD technician.
Using sound fundamentals, first and second place went to U.S. Army teams and third place to one of the two U.S. Marine Corps teams.
By learning from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, the EOD teams acquired the most important aspect of their job, experience, according to Martinez.