Salty Weasel prepares EOD Airmen
By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Ingold, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 28, 2018
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- The team stepped off the UH-60 Black Hawk under the blazing South Carolina sun. Their gear had been tested, their muscles fatigued, but with grins on their faces the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal teams triumphantly returned to Shaw.
Two EOD teams participated in exercise Salty Weasel at McCrady Army National Guard Base training area near Columbia, Aug. 20-23, gaining experience in a simulated deployed environment.
“We were out here to determine the areas our two teams that are deploying need to improve on,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Parillo, 20th CES EOD equipment noncommissioned officer in charge. “We are running through counter improvised explosive device scenarios, tactics and movements, rucking and anything else associated with a deployed environment.”
The week began with a ride to the training area in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and a four mile ruck march to the teams’ base camp. The teams ran operations over four days simulating the workload and living conditions an EOD Airman might face in a deployed environment.
“The point of doing the long insert was to get them stressed and tired,” said Parillo. “Everything in the career field is a mental game, and we wanted them to be in the habit of working in that environment.”
The exercise tested the operational skills of the unit’s team leaders, the capabilities of newer EOD Airmen to rise to the occasion if needed and the Airmen’s ability to think on their feet and adapt to changing circumstances.
“My overall experience with Salty Weasel was a positive one,” said Senior Airman Tyler McMillanwammack, 20th CES EOD journeyman. “I got to fully function as a P2, which is a safety backup for our team leaders, and one of the days I ran operations as a team leader by myself. We responded to a hazard, which was a pressure plate connected to two landmines. It was complicated for my first problem, but I handled it the best I could and took it apart piece by piece.”
Members of the South Carolina National Guard also participated in the drill by providing a medivac for simulated wounded Airmen.
“The helicopter flights were awesome,” said McMillanwammack, “It was the first time I’ve called in a nine line medivac call. We provided simulated life-saving support for two Airmen and they flew them back to Shaw. It was good to provide them training as well.”
Salty Weasel was an example of how EOD Airmen pursue initial success or face total failure in a real world situation. As their deployments draw nearer, the Shaw EOD teams preparing to go down range will continue to train in the environment they will operate in.