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Best and Bravest: Aviano EOD

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackson Judge, explosive ordnance team member from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron, searches for hazards during a training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. EOD Airmen are trained to detect, disarm, detonate and dispose of explosive threats all over the world, EODs are the specialists who bravely serve as the Air Force’s bomb squad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackson Judge, explosive ordnance team member from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron, searches for hazards during a training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. EOD Airmen are trained to detect, disarm, detonate and dispose of explosive threats all over the world, EODs are the specialists who bravely serve as the Air Force’s bomb squad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackson Judge, explosive ordnance team member from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron, squeezes marking chalk during an training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. Marking chalk is used to mark a clear path or hazards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackson Judge, explosive ordnance team member from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron, squeezes marking chalk during an training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. Marking chalk is used to mark a clear path or hazards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Tyler McConnell, left, and Senior Airman Colby Forsythe, explosive ordnance team members from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron, attempt to reconnect the operation control unit to the Micro Tactical Ground Robot during a training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. EOD Airmen use the MTGR to carry out reconnaissance missions, identify objects from far distances, locate designated targets and breach a compound. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Tyler McConnell, left, and Senior Airman Colby Forsythe, explosive ordnance team members from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron, attempt to reconnect the operation control unit to the Micro Tactical Ground Robot during a training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. EOD Airmen use the MTGR to carry out reconnaissance missions, identify objects from far distances, locate designated targets and breach a compound. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

A Micro Tactical Ground Robot is used during a training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. The MTGR is a lightweight, tactical vehicle with high maneuverability that can be used in all terrains and both indoors and outdoors. It is also a handheld system that can be carried by an individual soldier. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

A Micro Tactical Ground Robot is used during a training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. The MTGR is a lightweight, tactical vehicle with high maneuverability that can be used in all terrains and both indoors and outdoors. It is also a handheld system that can be carried by an individual soldier. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Airmen from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron dismount to a training site at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. Explosive ordnance team members are trained to detect, disarm, detonate and dispose of explosive threats all over the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Airmen from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron dismount to a training site at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. Explosive ordnance team members are trained to detect, disarm, detonate and dispose of explosive threats all over the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackson Judge, left, Airman 1st Class Tyler McConnell, and Senior Airman Colby Forsythe, explosive ordnance team members from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron, prepare equipment during a training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. EOD Airmen are often assigned to some of the most dangerous missions and  perform tactically harrowing and technically demanding tasks in diverse environments worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackson Judge, left, Airman 1st Class Tyler McConnell, and Senior Airman Colby Forsythe, explosive ordnance team members from the 31 Civil Engineer Squadron, prepare equipment during a training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 8, 2020. EOD Airmen are often assigned to some of the most dangerous missions and perform tactically harrowing and technically demanding tasks in diverse environments worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --

A job for the best and bravest, they do what needs to be done to keep others safe. “Who are they" you might ask?

They are explosive ordnance disposal Airmen.

“In my own words, an EOD Airman’s job is to restore freedom of movement while protecting personnel and property,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Laney, EOD team leader from the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron, EOD flight, Aviano Air Base, Italy.

EOD Airmen are the specialists who serve as the Air Force’s bomb squad.

“Whenever an explosive hazard or potential explosive hazard halts operations or daily life, it’s an EOD Airman’s mission to neutralize or clear the hazard and restore the freedom of movement for personnel, vehicles, and aircraft, enabling operations and normal life to continue,” said Laney.

In order to tackle such important roles in the Air Force mission, EOD Airmen train daily.

“We train:  We learn from each other’s past operational experiences; we conduct practical ‘hands-on’ training scenarios,” said Laney. “We go TDY quite often attending advanced training courses; we try to stay up-to-date with EOD relevant intel-reports and monthly we assign everyone a subject that they must present to the rest of the flight as a training class.”

Not only are they training academically, but they take their physical fitness very serious, which allows them to be lethal and ready at all times.

“Physical fitness is imperative,” said Laney. “A lot of our operational tasks are physical, and often require us to wear heavy and cumbersome protective suits and equipment. I think it’s widely known that someone will make bad or lazy decisions when they’re tired.  The more physically fit we are, the easier we’ll be able to operate in our additional gear, and the longer we’ll be able to think clearly and make sound decisions.”

EOD Airmen use a wide range of tools, such as bomb suits which can weigh about 80 pounds, and robots that can weigh 30 pounds, but every Airman has different preferences and opinions on which tool works best.  

“Our tools are everything to us,” said Laney. “We must be proficient with all of our tools to maximize our safety. For example, the robot - the more we can do with a robot, the less we have to do by hand.”

Here at Aviano, EOD Airmen play a crucial part in the 31st Fighter Wing mission.

“We play a key emergency response role for our surety mission,” said Laney. “We have also made strong ties with some of our NATO allies by coordinating and conducting multi-lateral training events and exercises with our EOD counterparts.”

Aviano’s EOD flight has truly proven that they are the best of the best.

“The Aviano EOD flight is an amazing group,” said Laney. “We’ve been named best EOD Flight in USAFE for the past three years and best in the Air Force for 2018. We have amazing leaders at all levels and I’m super proud and honored to be a part of this team."