Calm in the Storm: Behind the Scenes with the Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit

Posted: Jan 10, 2013 7:45 AM

They're trained to handle bombs and save countless lives. But for this specialized military unit, being nervous around explosives isn't part of the job.


Excerpted from Townhall Magazine's January feature, "The Calm in the Storm," by Leah Barkoukis:

Inside the U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal truck at Andrews Air Force Base, all eyes are fixated on a screen that’s running a live feed from the robot’s camera outside. The spectacle is a mock improvised explosive device that’s about to be “disrupted”—an intentionally vague term meant to encapsulate classified information. Basically, through a controlled blast, the team is mitigating the hazard of the unexploded ordnance—while attempting to retain as much evidence as possible.

Tech. Sgt. Wayne Winder adjusts the controls for the robot’s camera to get a better view. On screen, everything appears to be ready; the “IED” is sandwiched between sandbags—which are piled high in a triangular shape behind the device—and four bottles of water bound together with electrical tape. With the help of a blasting cap, explosives and electrical wires, the water turns into a powerful tool to disrupt the IED.

“FIRE IN THE HOLE! FIRE IN THE HOLE! FIRE IN THE HOLE!” an airman yells from outside the truck, warning that a detonation is imminent.

A loud blast rings out through the air and, in an instant, all that remains on the screen is a cloud of smoke and dust, and a few measly sandbags that managed to remain intact.

Mission accomplished.

Read the rest of Barkoukis' account and interviews from her exclusive behind-the-scenes trip by ordering the January issue of Townhall Magazine.