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MacDill after dark: EOD, 6th SFS use NVGs for first-time joint training

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexander Thibodeaux, a 6th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team lead, probes the ground for a possible simulated improvised explosive device at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 20, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexander Thibodeaux, a 6th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team lead, probes the ground for a possible simulated improvised explosive device at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 20, 2020. The 6th CES EOD team teamed up with the 6th Security Forces Squadron military working dog team for joint light and noise discipline training using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Warner)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Swink, a 6th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician, surveys an area for a possible simulated enemy unit at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 20, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Swink, a 6th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician, surveys an area for a possible simulated enemy unit at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 20, 2020. The 6th CES EOD team teamed up with the 6th Security Forces Squadron military working dog team for joint light and noise discipline training using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Warner)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Tick.

Tick.

Boom.

The 6th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team and the 6th Security Forces Squadron military working dog team often use training exercises to always be prepared for any challenges that they may encounter with improvised explosive devices.

But the real difficulty with IEDs comes in identifying what you can or cannot see.

“What makes this training exercise challenging in particular is that it takes place at night and our Airmen need get use to the limitations of the night vision googles (NVG),” said Staff. Sgt. Jonathan Nelson, 6th CES EOD team lead. “While wearing NVGs, you lose your depth perception as well as your peripheral vision.”

During the Oct. 20 training exercise, six EOD technicians and three military working dog handlers trained on their NVG proficiency while four EOD team leaders and one MWD team leader provided training oversight and evaluation.

With the exception of using ground penetrating radar, most of what these teams rely on is visual in nature, so taking away an Airman’s ability to see is a limitation that needs to be addressed, trained for and conquered.

“This training exercise was crucial because it allowed us to integrate with the 6th SFS K-9 unit and help us practice our wartime mission in the most challenging environment,” said Nelson. “It also allowed us to identify previously unknown limitations that we can work on in future joint operations.”

The 6th SFS MWD team normally has its own training regimen, but when given the opportunity to work jointly with MacDill’s EOD team, it was an opportunity that the MWD pounced on.

“Staff Sgt. Nelson reached out to us with the training opportunity and I knew immediately that we wanted to get involved with implementing K-9 training aids, evacuating our dog teams in a contested environment and jointly detecting IEDs with NVGs,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Bolin, a 6th SFS MWD trainer. “It was the first time we have done anything with EOD this year because of COVID-19, but this is definitely the first time we have ran night ops with NVGs and our dogs.”

Bolin emphasized that collaborating with EOD is extremely beneficial because it simulates a realistic joint mission possibility due to the nature of both of their jobs.

Not all military operations happen at night, so being prepared for anything is a critical element in this training exercise.

“We are definitely better at what we do when we think outside the box and prepare our Airmen for all possibilities in the field,” said Nelson. “This is something we must continue to train on to becoming the most proficient counter-IED Airmen we can be.”