MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams from across the Department of Defense competed in the third-annual East Coast Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team of the Year Competition hosted by 8th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB) on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from October 18 to 22, 2021.
Ten teams from the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps competed for five days in multiple challenges evaluating their skills as EOD technicians. While there are several EOD competitions across the country every year, this occasion marked the first time Camp Lejeune has hosted the annual event with members of the joint force.
“The events that we held were actual simulated response scenarios such as an IED in a non-permissive environment or an unexploded ordnance response here stateside,” said Gunnery Sgt. Daniel C. LaBounty, a training chief with EOD Company, 8th ESB. “We tested the full gambit of EOD skills.”
Service members participated in multiple trials to assess their proficiency in an array of EOD disciplines including chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear response; a bomb suit agility test; a robot obstacle course; physical training; marksmanship; and a written exam.
From the start, it became clear the competition would breed both a professional sense of competitiveness and unity between the three competing service branches.
“I was in a tent with another Marine team, and we built camaraderie over the past few days as we endured the suck together and bounced ideas off of each other,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Gowen, an EOD technician with the 767th Ordnance Company in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “We still have that rivalry, but we are still in it together.”
While the unique challenges of the training environment organically increased esprit de corps amongst the EOD technicians, many relationships started years before the service members arrived in eastern North Carolina this week. All EOD technicians attend the same military occupational specialty school at the Naval School for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (NAVSCOLEOD) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
“We all started in the schoolhouse together, and it’s good to see how everyone has improved since then,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Mraz, an EOD technician with the 767th Ordnance Company in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “This event has definitely been fun with all of the branches coming together.”
The service members participating with EOD Company gained more than just renewed camaraderie and friendships; new tactics, procedures, and ideas were also demonstrated for use across the EOD community.
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff that we don’t do at Fort Bragg that I would like to take back and brief my command team on and maybe try to implement,” said Gowen. “We’ve experienced some new things … that have been put on here and they have all been really informative for me and some of the other participants.”
At the culmination of the competition, the inter-service competitors were able to reflect positively on all they had experienced and learned after finishing a grueling week of complex, realistic training scenarios with their brothers and sisters from across the East Coast.
“We have learned different types of mindsets; everyone sees things differently, and each branch has a different mission that they focus on,” said Mraz. “It’s nice to see how the other branches react to the same situation differently.”