by Airman 1st Class Kara Philp, 332 Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
TALLIL AIR BASE, Iraq -- Some might call a bomb squad living in a bunker ironic; the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadrons explosive ordnance disposal flight airmen here call it practical.
The EOD airmen are on alert 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and respond to an average of 25 to 30 calls each week.
By living and working here, were always ready, said Tech. Sgt. Tom Cowern, 332nd EOD flight craftsman.
Life in the bunker has other advantages for these 12 activated reservists.
We dont have enough manning to split into shifts, and this way were always ready, Cowern said. If the phone rings at 2 a.m., we all hear it.
Although responding to calls is an important aspect of the job, it is not the only part.
Were actively clearing areas of the base, taking munitions to the range and getting rid of them, Cowern said. Basically anytime someone puts a shovel in the ground, we have to clear the area.
The EOD airmen also conduct two training sessions each week.
We use what weve found, and what we think well find, as a basis for our training, Cowern said. Theres no such thing as too much training, we are always learning something new, and theres a lot to remember -- were just trying to keep ahead of the game.
The EOD airmen have given ordnance-identification classes to more than 500 people during their stay here.
It is another part of our job to help train people (who) have to work and live in an environment that has real-world unexploded ordnance laying about, said Chief Master Sgt. Russell Ehmke, EOD flight chief. We are here to help save lives and protect assets so the mission can be completed.
According to EOD airmen, the flight works differently than most others.
Our team chief solicits the opinions of each member before making a call, said Senior Airman Jon Mejia, EOD flight apprentice. Everyone brings a wealth of knowledge and past experience to the table.
The EOD airmen work closely with the soldiers, along with the Italian and Korean air force EOD members.
Most EOD deployments since the Gulf War have involved more training than clearing of munitions at the locations.
Tallil is in a class by itself.
As EOD technicians, we could have not chosen a better place to go to practice our trade, Ehmke said. We have a team of true professionals (who) have risked their lives and will continue to risk their lives while assigned here.
New territory has meant new equipment and experiences for EOD airmen.
Were testing new explosive tools and finding munitions there isnt a lot of information on, Cowern said. Ive never had a deployment in my career that comes close to this one.