Patriot Warrior provides realism for Reserve EOD techs
By Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet, 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 24, 2015
FORT MCCOY, Wis -- Few careers in the military demand as much precision, focus, situational awareness, and attention to detail as an explosive ordnance disposal technician. Hence, non-stop training is critical in maintaining the mental acuity required to shoulder their daunting and hazardous mission.
During the Patriot Warrior exercise here, Reserve technicians from the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, McChord Field, Wash., undertook an exclusive brand of instruction to keep them on their toes in preparation for challenges they could face while serving downrange.
Patriot Warrior is the Air Force Reserve Command portion of an immense joint field exercise involving nearly 6,000 Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, and multinational forces. Formerly known as Global Medic, the exercise still focuses primarily on aeromedical evacuation training and readiness, but has evolved to become more multi-faceted.
Four of McChord's EOD technicians traveled to Wisconsin in order to capitalize on the specialized training offered by Fort McCoy's state-of-the-art facilities.
"I've never participated in a training exercise that goes through all the iterations of an actual deployment like we have here," remarked Tech. Sgt. Michael Blanch, a 446th EOD technician. "We rarely have to simulate at all. All the distances are actual correct distances we would use in the real world. There's nothing you could do at home station that would prepare them as well as this for a deployment."
Blanch, also a designated observer, controller, and trainer for the exercise, was selected to help prepare mounted-dismounted field scenarios for multiple teams of EOD technicians from across the command.
"We're designing problems and implementing them based on scenarios we expect (them to) encounter in places like Afghanistan," he said. "It's about taking the skills they learn in the classroom and finding a way for them to apply critical thinking and threat analysis. All of their knowledge serves as tools they can use out here."
The tailored exercises at Patriot Warrior served to foster a mental state that can allow the participants to completely immerse themselves into the scenarios.
"We had an opportunity to exercise in small towns designed with desert-like appearances made to feel like the Middle East," explained Staff Sgt. Stewart Knight, a 446th EOD technician. "It really helped instill a deeper mindset. It let us set aside trying to game the situation, and put more effort in."
For the technicians, Patriot Warrior was less about learning, but more about discovering how to think.
"There is a certain methodology and understanding of how ordnance functions and how terrorists plan to kill us," Knight said. "Once we get that methodology down, it helps us better attack the problem and make a hostile situation safe. There are hundreds of years' worth of weapons designed by hundreds of authors. Their functioning can be similar, but it all depends on how it was made. Once you understand the general methodology, you can learn how to approach an improvised (explosive) device and understand how its components function, and how they work together. That's the kind of thinking that helps us accomplish our mission."
The ability to work with service members outside their close-knit circle served to elevate their experience.
"We wanted to mix up the teams, because in a deployed environment you might have to work with random team members, and we want them to be ready for that," Blanch said.
"We've gotten different skills and tips from around the Air Force working here," Knight explained. "They might have a different type of robot, different tactics or experiences; they might have a way to deal with landmines that we hadn't thought of before. You get used to their rhythm and pattern, and it adds more depth to your understanding of how to deal with these situations."