Beale EOD stays proficient on unlevel terrain
By Senior Airman Shawn Nickel, 9th RW Public Affairs
/ Published February 29, 2012
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- The best way to deal with an improvised explosive device or an unexploded piece of ordnance is to blow it up in a controlled fashion. But what if that device is deep in a well, cave or underground irrigation system which can't be compromised by an explosion?
The 9th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordinance Disposal flight here stays proficient in mountain warfare training to handle various situations such as this.
Based off the Marine Mountain Warfare Training in Bridgeport, Calif., this training sets these Beale Airmen apart in the already elite and dangerous EOD career field. No other EOD flight in the Air Force keeps a continuous training program like theirs.
After a 2008 deployment to Afghanistan, Master Sgt. Arin Finch, 9th CES EOD flight chief, along with retired EOD technician Larry Finan, started developing the Air Force Mountain Warfare program.
"During my deployment we were constantly going into wells, karez systems, and into caves to remove or destroy caches of weapons and explosives," Finch said. "Not having the proper training on rigging and ropes in near vertical situations was placing [Airmen] in compromising situations. This training gives us the ability to perform our jobs safely, making us a force multiplier and keeping us from being a liability to ourselves."
After attending the official course with their Marine counterparts, EOD technicians continuously train on the various implements of climbing or repelling in the mountainous terrain around the base. Finch said the constant practice has created experts in the art of removing objects from almost any location.
During a recent trip to Auburn, Calif., Finch and his team simulated a situation where a Hellfire missile neutralized an enemy location, leaving a casualty and a weapons cache to be removed. They lowered the casualty from a 200 foot cliff, then entered a cave on the side of the same cliff and extracted a cache of various explosives to a location safely below.
"The experience and knowledge flight members learn in exercises like this will help them when deployed as they work constantly with the other services," said Finch.
As several flight members prepare for upcoming deployments, they take the lessons from Finch and other experienced EOD Airmen from Beale have learned and prepare to put it to use.
"The way we learn to tie knots, and manipulate ropes has become invaluable during deployments in unforgiving terrain," said Staff Sgt. Gene Tschida, 9th CES EOD technician who has been deployed to mountainous terrain three times and prepares to do so again. "Being able to pass these skills onto other Airmen gives us practice and will help them as they go into unknown situations. This all gives us the edge when it comes to spending hours on end in unlevel terrain."