Robins ANG bomb squad stays cool under pressure

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
Working with explosives, and especially explosives of questionable stability, would seem to be a stressful job.

You wouldn't know that, however, from spending time with members of the 116th Air Control Wing's Explosives Ordnance Disposal Flight. Even at the end of a day in which they had to answer an emergency call to deal with deteriorating dynamite, they were constantly joking and teasing each other.

Staying in a good frame of mind is an important part of a job that has so much potential for danger, said Master Sgt. John Bell.

"You have got to be able to let the water roll off your back," Bell said.

He and other members of the unit took time to talk about their job Tuesday after exploding six pieces of dynamite that had been determined to be deteriorating. They got the call Tuesday morning after it was discovered that the dynamite, used in training operations, was "exuding," which is a sign of deterioration.

Under escort from Security Forces and the Robins Fire Department, they very slowly transported the dynamite to the unit's detonation range near Pave Paws. Each piece was placed in an area surrounded by thick concrete walls, then exploded from 500 feet away using a controller. An M-112 demolition charge, which is a rectangular block of Composition 4, better known as C-4, was strapped to the dynamite to ensure detonation. By the end of the day a large crater had been formed within the block walls.

Bell said that although the six-person unit does monthly training, it's only about two or three times per year that it gets an emergency call to dispose of explosives. Other calls it has handled have related to M-18 Claymore mines that were showing signs of instability.
The unit, which is part of the 116th Civil Engineer Squadron, also handles calls regarding suspicious packages on base. They have bomb suits and other equipment to assist with the disposal.

Bell and Master Sergeant Greg Stephens have both worked in the squadron since 1999. Earlier this year they also both won Bronze Stars, the nation's fourth highest combat medal, for work with improvised explosive devices during a deployment to Iraq.

They have both been through an inter-service, 8-month school to learn to deal with IEDs. Bell said that based on the washout rate, it's the third toughest school in the military.

"I'd say we are pretty good at it," Stephens said. "We still have all of our fingers. We've never had any major problems."

They also said they consider their job to be pretty safe due to the training that they have, and they enjoy what they do.

"It's satisfying to take apart a bomb," Stephens said. "You get a lot of adrenaline rush, knowing you are doing something good."