ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. — They’re the US Air Force men and women of the 375th Air Mobility Wing, but you can call them the bomb squad. Working in the face of danger, the Explosive Ordinance Division (EOD) at Scott Air Force Base relies on their teammates and training to diffuse a situation.
“If there’s any suspect package or device that seems suspicious, we get called out by civil authorities or on base we can help eliminate the hazards,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Frey of the EOD and 375th Civil Engineering Squadron.
The EOD works and trains regularly with the St. Louis Bomb Squad and the Illinois Secretary of State’s Bomb Squad. FOX 2 got a firsthand look at the EOD10-bomb suit and helmet. Normally worn by the team leader, it’s an 80-pound Kevlar suit complete with a bulletproof mask and Kevlar breastplate. It’s as heavy and cumbersome as you might imagine when dealing with delicate devices.
“It gets a little anxious, especially wearing this,” said Frey. “You can get quite fatigued in it and especially using fine motor skills to be working around this item and making sure you’re cognizant of your surroundings. This makes us practicing in this constantly makes us mission capable and ready to be down range and safe.”
The crew can also step inside the field command center and send the robot nicknamed “Jerry” to get a closer look. These military members are willing to use their training and step up to a potential bomb, meeting a manmade explosive device with an explosion.
“The best way for us to get rid of explosives is to use our own explosives,” said Frey. “Now, we put the situation in our hands instead of the bad guy’s hands. So we control the detonation and that’s the safest way for us to handle a hazardous situation.”
They demonstrated a demolition, as FOX 2’s photojournalist Brian Ledford and reporter Patrick Clark trained in real-time situations with real explosives.
“Today, we’ll be training with TNT, semtex, C4, and detonating cord,” said EOD Flight Chief Andre Williams. “Today we’ll be at our detonation point up range. So we’ll be about 1,000 feet from where the explosion is going to happen.”
Keeping humans down range and out of the way of hazardous explosions, a series of toggles and switches, and controllers move the robot into place.
In May, a Jefferson County couple found a World War II-era Japanese navy bomb in their yard. The EOD members were called to help ATF, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, and St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit to diffuse the device. They shared their expertise to lessen the explosion.
“Every month, we’re out here blowing stuff up here out in the pit,” said Williams. “We always get calls from the town and people saying, ‘Hey what’s going on?’ That’s just our EOD guys, making sure they’re ready for the fight.”