Tuesday, September 10, 2013

EOD School: Mama's Notes

Eglin Air Force Base: Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School

My kid has been wiped out for the last 8 months

Since last January, I've only called him on any weeknight in case of extreme emergency. Admittedly, said extreme emergency could mean something so hilarious that it warranted waking him up, but for the most part, I've left him alone, Monday through Friday.

Because he has left his home at 4:12 a.m. every morning for the last 8 months. How much calculation are you doing to sleep until the moment when you can get out the door, at 4:12 a.m., and not, say, 4:11?

Because study hall began at 5:30 a.m, and school started at 8. Some classes were held outdoors, and required attendance in a Bomb Suit, or, a chemical suit (2 different things, I've learned.) 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Guess what happened at 5 p.m., every day? P.T.. One hour of Physical Training wrapped up the work day. Military physical training.

96 degrees with 88% humidity. Welcome to Florida.
You can take me off in 9 hours, and drop and give me 100.

To boot, on this particular military base, if you're outside and on foot, you're required to run. So, at lunch you have the freedom to go out for chow, but you have to run the 1/2 mile back to your car. Then, when you're full of Burger King, you have to run back out into the woods and put that suit back on until 5:00. When it's then time for P.T., and you take it off and do jumping-jacks for an hour.

A few more tidbits:
  • They test every 2 to 3 days. Pay attention. Know the content. The classes were often compared to "putting a fire hose of information in your mouth." Comprehend or get out.
  • There was no homework because the information is classified and cannot leave the base. (Where someone's crazy mother might blog it.)
  •  No homework might sound Tony-the-Tiger-GREAT, but think about it: You leave the base with what's in your pretty little head...and that is it: PASS or FAIL in the morning. Sweet Dreams.
  • Anything less than 85% is an automatic FAIL. You may or may not get a 2nd chance to test. No 3rd chances. Nice knowin' ya, don't let the door hit you in the ass on ya way out.
  • Second attempt to PASS, if offered, is often conducted with one hand in your pocket. If you blew your arm off in the first test, how you gonna pass the second?  Minus 2 arms = no more school.
The courses:

  • Demolition Division
  • Tools and Methods
  • Core Principles
  • Ground Division--Grenades, Land mines, projectiles and rockets
  • Air—Guided Missiles, Aircraft Bombs and Dispensers
  • IED—Improvised Explosive Devices--live devices!
  • Biological and Chemical Weapons
  • Nuclear Weapons
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction

Brian would call and tell me "I got 100 on my test!" And I'd say "Yayyyy!" And then he'd say "Now  on to Land Mines!" And I'd say "LAND MINES?!! Oh. Yayyyyy!"

Other notes I've taken over the months:
  • IED phase sucked. He had a suit in which the fan stopped working and he thought he'd die. Really. He thought he'd die.
  • Chemical warfare suits are another thing altogether. They don't "let the water out," so you stew in your own sweat.
  • Air/Guided missiles were hard. HARD. My notes from my conversation with him read "guided missiles are smarter than I am. They are ridiculous. They are so fucking smart."

Hilarity ensued, at times:
  • One comrade, when forced to take a test with one hand, commented, confidently, "that's ok, I'm amphibious," while the others rolled around screaming and laughing "you're ambidextrous!" 
  • After one field class, Brian half-yanked his own arm off when he grabbed his rucksack, only to find it had been zip-stripped to the fence post it had been resting against.
  • One day he arrived to class early and put a sliver of a post-it note over the laser of the instructor's mouse. The CO made several attempts to get the program started, clacking and slamming and sliding the mouse around on his desk, until he turned it upside down to read, "Problem?"
  • One Sergeant First Class showed up to work one morning with a 5 o'clock shadow. Luckily, Brian always carries a disposable razor, so he left it, so helpfully, on the SFC's desk, with a note that read "From PFC Little." On the way out to the field, Brian informed PFC Little, in passing, "Sgt. First Class is really going to like that present you gave him." Little responded, "Present?" and then, after a pause, "What. Did. You. Do?" It wasn't long before Little was asked to report to Sgt. First Class's office.
  • Aircraft had everyone feeling disoriented. Left was right and up was down, and they had to learn to think differently to pass that one. Brian told me a story of sitting on the ground while he watched a classmate test. Said testee had his head in the aircraft, so Brian could only see his legs, walking to one end, and pausing for awhile, and then to the other and pausing.... He finally emerged from the craft, and asked, "S'arnt Jolley?" When Brian asked, "yeah?" His soldier asked, calmly, "what the fuck am I doing?"
I am a note-taker, and that's what I have from the last 8 months.

It was harder than all of that. I've observed my kid, from afar, heading to sleep at 6:30 p.m to rest up for the next big day. Relationships can only be precarious; how many women sign up for a guy that has to check out before the nightly news is wrapped up? Weekends? He is 27 years old, and his "wild weekends" have consisted mostly of relaxing at home.

It's been less than 2 weeks since he graduated, with a 96.8 GPA. He remains on leave, stunned that it's over, and secretly proud to have accomplished something that he's worked and fought for, for so long. "I feel like I'm gloating if I say how happy I am," he tells me, and I, of course, respond, "You SHOULD gloat! You should be proud! Wear it! Scream it from the rooftops!"

But, I may be his Mom.

Mom or no Mom, I have remained in the background, awestruck at all this person-that-happens-to-be-my-son has endured and conquered. I am stupid-proud of him, and I vacillate between taking some sort of actual credit for having raised such a fine young man, and dumbstruck wonder that, wimpy as I am, he's even my kid.
Next post: More photos, Less Yappin. I promise.


  1. Anonymous8:58 AM

    Dear Mrs. Weidert,

    This was a great post, I am a civilian instructor at the EOD School, I've been here for 11 yrs. You are and most definitely should be proud of your son. He has risen to the top and succeeded in becoming an EOD Technician, no easy task. He is one of the few who has decided, for whatever reason, to be part of something greater than himself. To clear the way for others and to make dangerous places safe, there is no better that that. I went to EOD School in 1990 and it changed my life forever. Thank you for supporting your son in his endeavors. Be pleasantly surprised at what happens and don't be afraid of what he tells you, it can be unnerving at times. He will go forth and do great things....

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thank you so much for commenting. I don't know if you are aware that we have an organization called Operation Warrior Watch, but I'd love for you to check in, or email me at ljstewart@gmail.com. The website (operationwarriorwatch.org) is a bit outdated at this point, but we're still working like crazy in the background here, and getting ready to update those pages on a regular basis. I'd love to bend your ear!--Lori


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