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Explosive Ordnance Disposal Division (CEXD)

Explosive ordnance disposal division develops Operational & Support Guidance on Training, Equipment, and Manpower. This division also Guides the Joint Service EOD Program Board on issues involving Training and Technology. Additionally this division Supports the US Secret Service, VIPPSA (VIP Protective Support Agency) and Manages the Active Range Clearance Program.

Over the past few decades, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) has experienced several organizational changes before finally becoming part of the civil engineering community. As the Vietnam War intensified in the mid-1960s, the increased need for EOD manpower in the Pacific Theater of Operations left United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) with minimal manning and inexperienced EOD leadership. Most USAFE units were manned with three people; operational standby duty was constant. EOD unit manning documents required senior enlisted managers, but most units were supervised by mid-level or below noncommissioned officers. Inspections during this era consistently reflected the impact on EOD capabilities.

In 1975, USAFE implemented the Consolidated Support Base concept. This consolidated available manning at central locations throughout the theater and was the root of the EOD flight program as it exists today. These flights were assigned to the base commander, sowing the seeds for a future EOD/civil engineering merger. As this restructuring took effect, other important changes occurred. The viability of the air base became an issue as USAFE conducted the landmark study, Theater Air Base Vulnerability Estimate and Evaluation. This study determined the requirements needed to survive and recover from ground and air attacks, as well as launch retaliatory combat sorties.

During 1974-75, the NATO EOD community developed the NATO Standard Agreement 2929. It defined air base recovery goals in terms of expected airfield damage and quantities of ordnance. These goals were further refined in terms of time to complete the job.

Responding to NATO’s effort, Tactical Air Command spearheaded an effort within the Tactical Air Forces (composed of PACAF, TAC & USAFE) to develop a Statement of Operational Need that set research and development goals for the acquisition and fielding of CE and EOD capabilities needed to meet the Air Base Survivability mission in the overseas theaters.

One thing became apparent from the aforementioned studies and analytical efforts; CE mission success often depended on EOD mission success. That is, while the ordnance threat existed, CE was unable to access the airfield, repair critical sortie-generation facilities and recover taxiways or runways. The CE community became very interested in EOD’s capability to quickly eliminate an ordnance threat to airfieldoperations.

During the late 1970s, a major change transpired in the CONUS-based maintenance community’s organizational structure. The existing munitions maintenance, field maintenance and avionics maintenance squadrons were reorganized and EOD found itself in the new equipment maintenance squadron. The emphasis of this new organizational structure was increased sortie generation to overcome the Cold War threat.

EOD, however, didn’t make planes fly and with a few exceptions, didn’t build bombs or load them on aircraft. In addition, the thrust of the EOD mission on the airfield was evolving, as discussed above, from chasing planes to recovering an airfield after an air or ground attack. As budgets shrank, fewer and fewer dollars were allocated for "nonsortie generators."

During 1976, Senior Master Sgt. (Ret.) John J. Foster of Headquarters TAC EOD staff , wrote the first known integrated Base Recovery After Attack (BRAAT) concept document. By 1977, TAC had formed a CE/EOD multifunctional working group at Tyndall AFB, Fla., under the leadership of a civil engineer officer, Lt. Col. Darrell Bittle. This group succeeded in formalizing base recovery concepts and began an effort to move it forward through the major command staffs and the Air Staff. From 1978-1981, BRAAT research and development efforts were underway at the Air Force Engineering and Services Center (now the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency.) Integrated CE/EOD BRAAT tests were held at North Field, S.C., to determine effective, efficient measures necessary for recovering attacked overseas air bases. Based on these efforts, a concept started to gel; a concept known as Air Base Survivability, later changed to Air Base Operability (ABO) in 1986.


The Air Base Survivability Systems Management Office (AD/YQ) was activated in 1981 at Eglin AFB, Fla. AD/YQ staff was comprised of dedicated ABS evangelists from CE; EOD; disaster preparedness (DP); aircraft operations; communications, camouflage, concealment and deception; security and intelligence. This office focused Air Force efforts on acquiring needed capabilities to perform base recovery and launch combat sorties following a ground or air attack on overseas air bases. AD/YQ also helped establish and manage the Air Force’s first totally integrated BRAAT training site at Eglin’s Field 4. A group of EOD, CE and DP folks from AD/YQ oversaw curriculum development, equipment acquisition, facility construction and program implementation. The training, encompassing EOD, CE, services and DP, was finally transferred to Tyndall and dubbed the Silver Flag Exercise Site. The ABO concept had support from high-level officials. During the mid- to late-80s, ABO offices and functions started popping up around the Air Force.

The next major event in ABO was conducted at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, in the spring of 1985: SALTY DEMO. Following three years of planning, SALTY DEMO demonstrated a base-wide, full-scale, CE/EOD/DP integrated capability to recover an air base following an attack and quickly launch combat strikes against the enemy. Following SALTY DEMO, AD/YQ briefed the deputy chief of staff, Logistics and Engineering (both CE and aircraft maintenance functions were organized under Logistics and Engineering). The briefing essentially reiterated the mission demands on EOD and detailed its current capabilities to meet this most demanding mission. It clearly detailed EOD’s shortcomings. Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez, then deputy chief of staff, Logistics and Engineering, directed an Air Staff-level analysis. The Air Staff EOD managers later developed EOD 2000. This study was a library of capabilities needed by EOD: increased wartime manning, modernized equipment, enhanced technical data and training, better communication and more efficient methods for rendering safe and clearing hazardous ordnance.

Initial Success

The late 1980s was a "flexible" period in EOD history. Management of the EOD program was not particularly standardized and varied from command-to-command. For example, in USAFE, day-to-day functional management rested within the Logistics Munitions Directorate while wartime EOD operational support policy was developed by the ABO function within DCS Engineering and Services. EOD in other commands was searching for a home. In TAC, EOD was headed into the operations community. PACAF EOD was leaning towards the Security Police. USAFE was looking at CE.

In USAFE, the time was right to make major changes in EOD program management. On May 24,1988, the USAFE EOD program moved from the Logistics Munitions Directorate to CE. To the flights, the move was almost undetectable, since hardly a phone call was missed. To USAFE EOD program managers, the move made a great deal of sense.

Now, why did USAFE EOD move to CE? In USAFE, the mission was to defend fortress-Europe, recover from enemy attacks and launch counterattacks. In PACAF, the Korean peninsula supported a similar principle mission. In essence, BRAAT was the primary mission for supported CINCs and thus, the supporting commands as well. During BRAAT exercises, NATO tactical evaluations and operation readiness inspections, engineers worked with EOD on reconnaissance teams and had joint responsibility to prepare the runway for launch sorties in minimal time.

CE had a vested interest in helping EOD do the job better and faster. The new integrated organization helped EOD modernize its equipment and facilities. There were some tough budget battles, but the newly expanded CE community realized the impact of EOD not being able to do its job or finish in time on overall CE mission accomplishment. USAFE EOD started receiving improved equipment and supplies, resulting in increased morale and improved operational capability.

Standardizing Success

In early 1989, Maj. General Joseph A. Ahearn, the USAF Director of Engineering and Services, visited USAFE. He was familiar with EOD’s success within the USAFE CE structure. When the USAFE EOD functional managers approached him with the idea of moving all EOD into CE, Ahearn was convinced the initiative had merit. At the Air Force level, the EOD program was still part of the Air Staff Munitions Directorate. The USAFE EOD functional manager, Chief Master Sgt. John J. "JJ" Glover, moved to the Air Staff, taking his valuable USAFE experience with him.

From this vantage point, the Air Staff EOD managers put a proposal together to standardize the EOD function under CE.

By late 1990, all but two major commands concurred with the proposal. In April 1991, the logistics community at the Air Staff agreed to pass functional management of EOD to the Air Force Civil Engineer. Around the same time the two major commands that had withheld concurrence reconsidered and transferred their EOD capability to CE. Air Staff support was united under one functional area—CE.

Institutionalizing Success

Today, the EOD program is well integrated under the CE umbrella and has a stable existence within the traditional CE structure. Mobility, bare base beddown, force protection and base recovery are primary CE functions that include strong EOD involvement. CE understands and supports the varied EOD peacetime missions and recognizes EOD as a permanent blue-suit need.

Today, EOD units have state-of-the-art robotics, communications and computers. Moreover, these units have access to research and development equipment with unprecedented speed and in reasonable quantity. EOD equipment, training programs and policies are standard worldwide and the envy of other services’ EOD programs. Facility-wise, EOD has never fared better. EOD units are capability-based and housed in new or professionally refurbished buildings.

There is also a substantial, ongoing education and marketing effort. AFCESA’s EOD managers brief the EOD program at every On-Scene Commanders Course at Maxwell AFB Ala., and the CE Management 101 course at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Most CE commanders, officers and enlisted managers now understand the diversity of the EOD specialty and the impact it has on Air Force and federal agency missions. EOD may not produce "widgets" or complete "X" number of work orders, but EOD does provide an invaluable and otherwise unavailable service.

Lessons Learned

EOD managers learned one very important lesson during the transition. Educate the boss on what you do. New base CEs did not have a munitions or maintenance background and often did not understand what EOD encompassed. Those EOD units that opened their doors, integrated into their CE units, and demonstrated the professionalism and total extent of the flight’s operational capabilities found themselves the centerpiece of many CE squadrons.

The move to CE highlighted the need for technically competent, EOD-qualified CE officers. One of the first issues was deciding what to do with EOD officers. Would CE assimilate EOD officers with maintenance backgrounds? Should new CE EOD-qualified officers receive partial or abbreviated EOD training? Were EOD officers necessary at all?

After the concept was thoroughly analyzed and staffed, it was determined that fully trained, CE-EOD officers were necessary. The program was opened to qualified engineers, and by additionally opening waivers to bring back several maintenance EOD officers, EOD was well on the way to recovery. Several officers with maintenance backgrounds are still filling top CE EOD posts. Special recognition must go to the many EOD officers and senior noncommissioned officers who kept the program intact during the realignment.

EOD has always been a service provider and is now part of the biggest service-providing agency on base, the civil engineer squadrons. As always, there are new proposals on the horizon. Some will continue to grow and others will fade into distant memory. The move to CE continues to make a great deal of sense. EOD is experiencing synergistic success in mission accomplishment and highly improved quality of life for its troops.

The heritage bestowed on today’s EOD troops, from each technician who has "come before" and gone beyond the call of duty, laid a solid foundation for the continued success of the Air Force EOD Program.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:16:38 ZULU