FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) specialists from across the nation honed their skills during two weeks of intensive training known as Audacious Warrior, an exercise held between two training bases in Wisconsin last month.
Audacious Warrior began six years ago as part of a larger training event, and has continued to grow and evolve each year since becoming its own exercise. EOD members attended from Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin. Audacious Warrior was conducted between sites at Volk Field Air National Guard Base, Camp Douglas and Fort McCoy Total Force Training Center. Members of the 115th Fighter Wing EOD team and 115th Fighter Wing Security Forces facilitated the training for approximately 25 members.
“This training is invaluable because its staged in an environment our members would not typically get at home-station — it allows them to train as they need to for deployment,” said Tech. Sgt. Erich J. Sanford, the training noncommissioned officer in charge for the 115th Fighter Wing EOD. “Newer members learn from seasoned members and together we all were all able to take something from the training.”
“We had one Airman this year who just came off active duty — he said he received more training in two weeks than in two years,” Sanford said. “This doesn’t downplay the training he had, it just showed how valuable this training is because it’s all at one place and time.”
According to Chief Master Sgt. Edward E. Smith, the 115th Fighter Wing EOD program manager, the success of the EOD is based on knowledge and experience.
“By bringing in teams together from all over the country, with varying levels of individual experience, we are sharing knowledge more than instructing,” Smith said. “The least experienced individual and the most experienced SNCO learn from each other.”
“Often we have people that are retiring and we want to ensure that knowledge and skillset is retained and available for our younger members,” Sanford said. “Audacious Warrior offers career-field knowledge that you can only gain from deployment. It allows members with deployment knowledge to provide this information to our newer members in a training environment.”
Virtual battlespace scenarios focused on movement and communications. Additional training included rappelling and fast-roping from a 30-foot tower, a swim test and drown-proofing in uniform as part of rappelling certification, and pool PT including swimming, pushup and sit-ups. Further training, facilitated by a contracted EOD team at Fort McCoy, included land navigation, 13 different tabletop training scenarios, robot platforms, mine detector training, and counter IED training. The training culminated with two members of the 115th Security Forces Squadron conducting classes on combatives and active shooter training.
“The ability to train with units all over the country makes this training scenario unique,” said Master Sgt. Nathaniel P. Silvers, 115th Security Forces Squadron assistant unit training manager. “At your home station, you have limited bodies and points of view, especially in the Guard. With no one making a permanent change of station, no fresh minds or ideas are brought into play. It is amazing to see guys who have never met execute integrated team movements with such precision.
“The big takeaway from this training is one day participating in training just isn't enough,” Silvers continued. “Exercises with multiple units involved is an invaluable tool. The chance to work with and practice with guys you have to depend on in the field is paramount. We don’t know their procedures and they don't know ours, so it is a great opportunity to become familiar with guys you may see in a deployed location one day.”
Throughout the exercise, the 115th EOD and SFS continued to maintain response capabilities with real-world responses conducted at the Fort McCoy range and with the Sauk City police.