It’s one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. When you pursue the career of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer, you pursue danger. Many midshipmen at the Academy have either known they wanted to go this route or have discovered it during their time here. The training is intense and the job is even more so. But we need officers dedicated to danger to protect our country. Here we’ll explore why EODs are so important, and how they bolster the strongest Navy in the world.
What Is a Navy EOD Officer?
A Navy EOD Officer is many things. First and foremost, someone in this role must be able to handle a high level of stress and uncertainty. Their main goal is to ensure no explosive devices are detonated, and this role can also encompass many endeavors, whether out at sea, on land, or in the air. It can also take officers all over the world. EODs undergo rigorous training to be prepared for every possible scenario, so they can support other Navy personnel and keep our military and our country safe.
How to Become a Navy EOD Officer
By their third year at the U.S. Naval Academy, many midshipmen know if they will follow this career path. The USNA EOD accessions begin then, with a series of steps:
Step One: Candidates must successfully complete the EOD Screeners. There are two screeners per academic year (fall and spring). Approximately 24 hours each, these evaluations are designed to test and challenge the limits of a midshipman's grit, teamwork, and physical skills, in stressful and high-intensity situations, to determine if they would be a good fit for the community. Much of this rigorous test takes place in the pool to determine water comfortability and gauge how midshipmen would perform in subsequent dive school situations, if they make it to that level.
It includes arduous land-based evaluations as well. All throughout, evaluators track midshipmen performance and metrics (both tangible and intangible) to then “rack and stack” those who successfully finish for the next step in the accessions process. Active duty EOD technicians from Little Creek, Virginia, travel to USNA for the Screener weekends to help facilitate the EOD Screener alongside the USNA EOD Program. Administrators interview Screener finishers to evaluate them holistically outside of a physical environment and determine their fit for the EOD community.
Step Two: Those who pass the EOD Screener, have a good interview, and meet criteria and metrics for the allotted cut-off slots will earn a spot on the EOD Summer Cruise for their 1/C summer training. This cruise is a four-week evaluation at Joint Expeditionary Base - Little Creek in Virginia Beach at the EOD Mobile Units, during which administrators conduct more physical testing and evaluation, hands-on EOD evaluations and experiences, and critical thinking/problem solving/teamwork assessment-based tests.
Active duty EOD technicians stationed at JEB Little Creek run the cruise, which is essentially a four-week intensive "job interview" where midshipmen are assessed daily. Ranking EOD technicians conduct several interviews, which comprise the continuing whole person evaluation. “EOD Cruise gives us a true look at the midshipmen working in teams and how well they mesh with the EOD Community. We like to say, as much as the midshipmen candidates are trying out for EOD—EOD is also trying out for them. It must be the right fit, especially since our teams are small units of action,” says USNA Deputy EOD Program Manager Colin Magaro.
Step Three: Candidates that pass this portion of the evaluation are again racked and stacked across all other candidates. Based on number allotments for selectees afforded that year, a certain number get an interview slot; these occur at USNA every September. Conducted as an in-person interview in front of a board of EOD technicians chaired by the EODGRU2 Commodore, candidates talk with members of varying ranks and levels of EOD leadership. Detailers and officer community managers also facilitate this board. The process is very formal and extremely competitive. The board is different each year, and they are the voting authority on selection. By the interview step, the candidates have been seriously vetted and screened, so the interview process sorts out the best of the best.
After Graduation Training
Once EOD candidates graduate from USNA, they engage in a grueling training program lasting approximately two years. After commissioning, these candidates get a permanent change of station (PCS) to Naval Diving Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) in Panama City Beach, Florida, for the Joint Diving Officer (JDO) course. “JDO is approximately six months of ‘dive school,’ which encompasses SCUBA diving, surface supplied diving, diving medicine, dive physics, salvage operations, mixed-gas diving and rebreather diving. Dive school is again physically and team-work intensive, which sets the foundation for the EOD skills needed to be a successful officer,” notes Magaro.
Next, students PCS to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal (NAVSCOLEOD), which is approximately one year and is centered on critical thinking, problem solving and threat assessment, under the tutelage of an EOD technician. To complete this segment, candidates undergo Underwater Division for Navy students, which is again diving and teamwork intensive.
Then, students earn their basic EOD technician badge and take on approximately six months of follow-on training, including Static Line Jump School in Fort Benning, Georgia, Expeditionary Combat Skills Training in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Tactical Training in San Diego, California. Students must also complete Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Course (SERE) and Military Freefall School (MFF).
Finally, EOD technicians report to their first EOD Mobile Unit (EODMU). It may be on the East Coast (Little Creek, VA), West Coast (San Diego, CA), or overseas in Guam and Spain. At the EODMU's, EOD Officers will be assigned as platoon commanders of small units of action and begin the required training cycles for certification for deployment.
What Does a Navy EOD Officer Do?
There is no single definition of an EOD technician, but their overarching skill set includes critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork. Magaro explains, “Simply put, EOD units provide freedom of maneuver and protection of personnel and property anywhere in the world. We are the ultimate enablers which allow for other assets to safely perform their duties. We eliminate explosive hazards and threats, to include chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards.”
Equipment and Technology
EOD technicians deploy a large variety of tools and technology tailored to each job to achieve this. While they may use robots and bomb suits, this is just a small sampling of the equipment they’ll master. EOD teams have wide ranging capabilities and can deploy anywhere, at any time, with modular gear loadouts and various methods of insertion and extraction for a successful job. Their depth of knowledge and flexibility affords them an expertise that is known and respected throughout the Navy.
Magaro expands, “Our mobility skills allow us to determine our gear loadout appropriately depending on the asset available to us and the type of response needed. We can insert via plane, helicopter, boat, ground, mounted or dismounted…. One of our biggest strengths is this flexibility in mobility and modular gear loadout capabilities. Our small footprint combined with high-impact capabilities is what really sets us apart. EOD technicians are known for doing more with less.”
Where EODs are Made
At USNA, we are proud to support our midshipmen as they prepare to become excellent Navy EOD Officers. You can support them too. The Naval Academy Business Services Division (NABSD) gives proceeds from our 20 business units to help midshipmen be successful, well-rounded future leaders. We support a variety of extracurricular activities such as cultural arts, theater, music, club sports, and other activities. Your USNA tours, dining, and shopping directly give to the Brigade and make exciting careers like this possible! Thank you for your support.