Explosives to the rescue!

 

EOD Beaver Dam Exercise

When they said the site we were going to was only half a mile from the road, I wasn’t worried at all. Then, we started walking. The EOD guys had their rucksacks loaded to the brim with explosives. I didn’t lift them, but they had to be heavy. Their explosives looked like they were made of a heavy metal, and all I had to carry was my camera equipment!

EOD Beaver Dam Exercise

We walked through the woods, in the snow – over branches, stumps, logs, under tree limbs. It was cold out and I was actually sweating. When we got there I was ecstatic to take a break!

EOD Beaver Dam Exercise

While I was catching my breath – they were at it again. Unloading their gear, calculating the best locations to start, setting up their initial blast. At first glance, it looked like they were ready to blow up a small snow hill. Later I’d find out it was much more than that!

EOD Beaver Dam ExerciseEOD Beaver Dam ExerciseEOD Beaver Dam Exercise

We were sent away (the Juneau County Forestry team/DNR and myself). Apparently what we felt was a long way away wasn’t near long enough. Soon Tech. Sgt. Erich Sanford appeared out of the woods and asked us to follow him. We walked almost half-way back to our starting point. From there we waited behind trees for that horn to blow, notifying us the blast was coming.

Knowing from that distance that I wouldn’t be able to catch any video of the explosion, I set up the camera anyway. After all, the noise of their explosions are pretty cool – I could always listen to them to remember this moment!

After the horn sounded, the explosion hit. It was sort of like an earthquake – the ground actually shook us!

Soon we were given the all-clear to head back to the site to check out the results. The dam was so well constructed that the initial explosion merely resulted in a really deep hole – about 12 inches in circumference, maybe 7-8 feet deep.

EOD Beaver Dam ExerciseEOD Beaver Dam Exercise

The EOD team grabbed their rucksacks and headed back to the truck. To get the results they wanted to see, they needed more explosives.

About 20 minutes later, they were back at it again. This time they were prepared to use C-4 and dynamite. By using both they were able to show junior Airmen the real-life capabilities of these types of explosives. While they were setting up, we were directed to start hiking back to our safe zone. About 30 minutes later, we were given the warning signs to find cover again.

EOD Beaver Dam Exercise

I pushed the record button on my camera and headed back behind a tree. This time I found a much sturdier tree to stand behind!

Again, the explosion was loud and the ground shook. With this blast we had a bonus show (for our ears anyway) – we could hear all the chunks of dirt and sticks fall to the ground. If you remember back to your days of playing in the ball pit at McDonalds or Chuck-E-Cheeses, grabbing a handful of balls and throwing them in the air – the sound of the balls falling again was kind of what it sounded like (only much, much louder!)

When we received the all clear, we headed back to the site again. This time, the results were impressive. The ground was gone. It was now chunked across the white snow surrounding the entire area, and a large puddle, that could possibly be referenced to as a pond, was there. Ice chunks were floating and the water was starting to flow.EOD Beaver Dam ExerciseEOD Beaver Dam Exercise

Because our EOD guys don’t stop until they know for sure the job is done, they grabbed even more C-4 to use in a final blast. They wanted to make sure the waterway was cleared so that once everything melted, the water could run freely again.

EOD Beaver Dam ExerciseEOD Beaver Dam Exercise

We repeated our actions again and left the site while the explosives were set. This last boom was almost as loud as the others. This time, the EOD crew was satisfied.

EOD Beaver Dam ExerciseEOD Beaver Dam Exercise

I’ve hung out with EOD several times in the past, but this was definitely my favorite. I know they do it in their everyday calls, but for my first time, I was able to witness them using their explosive knowledge to help the local community. They were contacted by the Juneau County Forestry Department to help them clear a waterway. Had the waterway not been cleared, it could have eventually led to flooding in the local area resulting in permanent damage to the forests. EOD was able to use their 10-day training exercise to help the locals open the waterway, gain additional real-world training experience, and successfully test the skills they’ve gained throughout their intensive trainings.

This was definitely a win-win situation and an amazing site to see – even if it took my muscles three days to recover from the hike!

About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.