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NEWS | Oct. 31, 2023

EOD Airmen bring innovation to a changing battlespace

By Airman 1st Class Aidan Thompson 87th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Airmen with the 87th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit partnered with the Innovation Lab here to streamline the process of making more realistic training ordnance.

“The delay from ordnance hitting the battlespace to us being able to get a commercially relevant, readily available product is a slow process,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Tolley, 87th CES/EOD technician. “And even when it does exist, it's prohibitively expensive.”

The Innovation Lab provided valuable skills and resources to support EOD with their effort to make more realistic training aids within a cost-effective and timely manner.

“The Innovation Lab helped me a lot with my 3D modeling skills to round out and find some tools that are more tailored to my designs” Tolley said. “Some of the things that we have built for training exercises have been built by them. They’ve got really good people that volunteer over there. And they've assisted me significantly in developing my skills as a 3D modeler.”

The 3D printed training ordnance were implemented during various training scenarios, including clearing a mock flight line, surveying areas with large foliage and proper ordnance disposal.

“The devices are all monitored, so if in the course of walking through they fail to detect something with their metal detector and step on it, there will be a signal sent to the Bluetooth blasting cap,” Tolley explained. “A propane-driven detonation simulator will go off so you'll know that you actually set it off.”

The training ordnance allow Airmen to provide rapid response and adaptability to newer ordnance being introduced in the real world.

“We’re creating an environment where, if we saw a new improvised device being utilized by our adversaries, we can use images of it to create a 3D model, and then make it 3D printable for training purposes, enhancing our team’s readiness,” Tolley said.

The implementation of 3D printed ordnance have made an impact beyond local training, potentially revolutionizing the EOD career field Air Force-wide.

“The capability to be able to scan ordnance and recreate it on a 3D printer saves this flight around $250,000 worth of training aids from commercial suppliers,” said Tech. Sgt. John Hull 87th CES/EOD technician.

EOD’s partnership with the Innovation Lab, along with Tolly’s diligence and unorthodox thinking, is ultimately enhancing safety in real-time scenarios helping to enhance the warfighting capabilities of EOD Airmen.