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Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Air Force explosive ordnance disposal specialists ready ammunition for a controlled detonation Sept. 1 at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. Nearly 900 pounds of small arms ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were turned in by provincial citizens. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Air Force explosive ordnance disposal specialists ready ammunition for a controlled detonation Sept. 1 at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. Nearly 900 pounds of small arms ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were turned in by provincial citizens. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

A controlled detonation is conducted Sept. 1 near Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. Nearly 900 pounds of small arms ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were turned in by provincial citizens under the small arms for rewards program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

A controlled detonation is conducted Sept. 1 near Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. Nearly 900 pounds of small arms ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were turned in by provincial citizens under the small arms for rewards program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Robotic devices have lessened the danger of handling suspicious packages and unexploded ordnance. This photo highlights using a camera attached to the robot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Robotic devices have lessened the danger of handling suspicious packages and unexploded ordnance. This photo highlights using a camera attached to the robot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Robotic devices have lessened the danger of handling suspicious packages and unexploded ordnance. An EOD specialist remotely works on a dangerous device (U.S. Air Force photo)

Robotic devices have lessened the danger of handling suspicious packages and unexploded ordnance. An EOD specialist remotely works on a dangerous device (U.S. Air Force photo)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Senior Airman Sabrina Baker, an explosive ordnance disposal equipment troop, helps clear a path through a minefield. The Airman, is with the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight here. The EOD troops spent two months doing clearing the area near an old Soviet munitions supply dump. This allowed Soldiers from the 23rd Ordnance Company at Miesau, Germany, and 5th Maintenance Company at Kaiserslautern, Germany, to load three 5,000-pound rockets onto a wrecker Oct. 15 and take them to a secure site for disposal. Airman Baker deployed from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus McDonald)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Senior Airman Sabrina Baker, an explosive ordnance disposal equipment troop, helps clear a path through a minefield. The Airman, is with the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight here. The EOD troops spent two months doing clearing the area near an old Soviet munitions supply dump. This allowed Soldiers from the 23rd Ordnance Company at Miesau, Germany, and 5th Maintenance Company at Kaiserslautern, Germany, to load three 5,000-pound rockets onto a wrecker Oct. 15 and take them to a secure site for disposal. Airman Baker deployed from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus McDonald)

Senior Airmen David Besse and Justin Voorhees, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight, prepare to destroy explosives using a remote controlled robot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Heath Tempel)

Senior Airmen David Besse and Justin Voorhees, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight, prepare to destroy explosives using a remote controlled robot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Heath Tempel)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- The equipment and vehicles EOD Airmen have used over the years have evolved to keep up with the ever-changing requirements of the tactical battle space.  Armored vehicles have transformed from standard armored Humvees in early 2003 to the Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle (JERRV) currently in use today. The JERRV is a massive vehicle that allows EOD teams to safely travel to and from an incident site and allows them to vary operations in and around the vehicle during a call. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathan Doza)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- The equipment and vehicles EOD Airmen have used over the years have evolved to keep up with the ever-changing requirements of the tactical battle space. Armored vehicles have transformed from standard armored Humvees in early 2003 to the Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle (JERRV) currently in use today. The JERRV is a massive vehicle that allows EOD teams to safely travel to and from an incident site and allows them to vary operations in and around the vehicle during a call. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathan Doza)

This USAF poster, created by Ken Chandler, honors EOD Airmen by illustrating some of their equipment, protective clothing and their instantly recognizable specialty badge. (This image is copyrighted, is the property of Ken Chandler and is available only to members of the armed forces and military organizations.)

This USAF poster, created by Ken Chandler, honors EOD Airmen by illustrating some of their equipment, protective clothing and their instantly recognizable specialty badge. (This image is copyrighted, is the property of Ken Chandler and is available only to members of the armed forces and military organizations.)

In an example of joint operations, U.S. Army personnel often protect USAF EOD technicians from enemy attack while they work. Here, an Army soldier providing security watches as Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan (right) operates the remote controls of a robot near Balad Air Base, Iraq, in 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan)

In an example of joint operations, U.S. Army personnel often protect USAF EOD technicians from enemy attack while they work. Here, an Army soldier providing security watches as Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan (right) operates the remote controls of a robot near Balad Air Base, Iraq, in 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan)

This photo shows the robot approaching an Army vehicle that was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).  (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan)
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This photo shows the robot approaching an Army vehicle that was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan)

A snapshot of the robot’s remote-control monitor. The robot’s camera provides a close look at an IED from a safe distance. (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan)
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A snapshot of the robot’s remote-control monitor. The robot’s camera provides a close look at an IED from a safe distance. (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan)

Photograph of USAF EOD technician Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan carrying captured explosives found in a car near Balad Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan)
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Photograph of USAF EOD technician Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan carrying captured explosives found in a car near Balad Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Kimberly Mahan)

Senior Airman Kyle Preece shown working on an F6A robot as a vehicle borne IED burns in the background. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Senior Airman Kyle Preece shown working on an F6A robot as a vehicle borne IED burns in the background. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting Explosive Ordnance Disposal, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting Explosive Ordnance Disposal, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting Explosive Ordnance Disposal, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting Explosive Ordnance Disposal, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting Explosive Ordnance Disposal, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting Explosive Ordnance Disposal, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting Explosive Ordnance Disposal, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting Explosive Ordnance Disposal, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting EOD, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - The Warrior Airmen exhibit, highlighting EOD, on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Initial Success or Total Failure

When the presence of unexploded ordnance (UXO) makes an area too dangerous for normal operations, the U.S. Air Force relies upon its highly-trained Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians to make the area safe. Approaching their dangerous job with the grim humor of well-trained professionals, the EOD personnel's unofficial motto is "Initial Success or Total Failure." 

Air Force EOD technicians undergo extremely demanding training at the Naval School, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment, which conducts all the Department of Defense's basic EOD training at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. 

The primary mission of USAF EOD is base support, which includes disarming ordnance hung on aircraft or investigating suspicious packages. In addition, they remove UXO hampering runway and airbase recovery operations, assist in clearing active bombing ranges, and provide support during trips made by the president and other important government officials. 

In support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, USAF EOD technicians were called upon to assist in what had been a primarily U.S. Army mission -- defusing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on the battlefield. Since Vietnam, no USAF EOD personnel had died while performing a safing procedure, but in March 2006, Tech. Sgt. Walter Moss, an EOD team chief, was killed while trying to safe an explosive device near Baghdad. Unfortunately, many more EOD personnel from all services lost life and limb while performing their duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Adding to the danger, EOD teams also received small arms and mortar fire while disarming IEDs. However, these Airmen understood the value of their work as one EOD stated, "For every IED we take care of, one more won't explode ... [and hurt] another civilian or coalition troop."

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Dr. Jeff Underwood: "Initial Success or Total Failure" (00:32:06)
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