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2017 Robot Rodeo wrangles advanced EOD technology

Eastern National Robot Rodeo and Capabilities Exercise

Air Force Senior Airman Tyler McMillan Wammack operates a robot controller with his team from the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. The group was part of the 2017 Eastern National Robot Rodeo and Capabilities Exercise at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, in late August. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Susan H. Lawson)

Eastern National Robot Rodeo and Capabilities Exercise

Col. Tanya Anderson, director of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Readiness Directorate, tours one of seven scenarios made available by vendors to participants at the 2017 Eastern National Robot Rodeo and Capabilities Exercise at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, last month. During the event, Anderson and others were able to gain hands-on experience with the robots and provide limited feedback to vendors. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Susan H. Lawson)

Eastern National Robot Rodeo and Capabilities Exercise

EOD team members from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, operate a computerized robot controller. The group was observed by AFCEC leaders Col. Tanya Anderson and Lt. Col. David Troxell during the recent Robot Rodeo event at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. Vendor teams were onsite to provide clarity as needed on robot controls. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Susan H. Lawson)

ATLANTA — Air Force, civilian and international explosive ordnance disposal experts recently shared tactics, techniques and procedures during the 2017 Eastern National Robot Rodeo and Capabilities Exercise in Atlanta.

The week-long event, held at Dobbins Air Reserve Base and the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, included teams competing in seven unique scenarios and showcased cutting-edge EOD robots.

“This exercise allowed us to identify potential operational requirement gaps through challenging, real world scenarios, and provided exposure to available robotic technologies,” said Dr. John Olive, Air Force EOD subject matter expert and one of several AFCEC EOD team members involved in the organization, coordination and execution of the annual event.

“When you’re on the outside looking in, you might think operating robotics should be a simple task but when you actually get the hands-on, you then understand the skillset, specifics and detailed training that a lot of our team members need to have,” said Col. Tanya Anderson, director of readiness at AFCEC. “(During Robot Rodeo) We can get hands-on experience but we also have the opportunity to give the robot vendors instant feedback.”

Another key benefit of Robot Rodeo is learning from each other.

“From the competitive standpoint, it really just keeps people goal-oriented,” said Senior Airman Tyler McMillan Wammack, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD Flight, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

The Airman and his EOD team members worked with the U.S. Army team who “had a different mindset on how to attack certain things which was interesting and helped out,” McMillan Wammack said.

Michael Carlton, a Transportation Security Administration supervisory explosives specialist, served as an evaluator during the airport scenario where teams used robots and a remote x-ray machine to inspect suspected bomb-filled luggage.

“Robot Rodeo further advances the technology available to our public safety and our Explosive Ordnance Disposal bomb squad technicians and helps save lives in the long run,” Carlton said.

AFCEC, as well as the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office’s technical support working group from Arlington, Virginia, and the United Kingdom Defence Science and Technology Laboratory sponsored this year’s event. It was hosted by Dobbins and the TSA at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

In addition to Air Force teams from Shaw and Eglin Air Base, Florida, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and British Army competed during the event.

The 2017 Eastern National Robot Rodeo and Capabilities Exercise winners were:

1st PLACE -- "Navy A," EOD Mobile Unit 6, Little Creek, Virginia Beach, Virginia
2nd PLACE -- 11th EOD Regiment, British Army, United Kingdom
3rd PLACE –- 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, Eglin AFB, Florida.