Airman takes calm approach to explosive career
By Amber J. Russell, 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 05, 2014
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
Men and women join the Air Force to become Airmen who fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. No matter the terrain, they are ready to hone their skills in service of their nation.
Senior Airman Brian Mink joined the Air Force in January 2011, ambitious to enlist as a boots-on-the ground combat photographer. Since his first-choice career field was not available at the time, he chose a career as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist instead.
"My parents weren't in the military but my grandfather was," said the Tucson, Arizona native. "They saw that I had an affinity with the military lifestyle so they weren't too surprised when I enlisted."
The EOD mission here at Joint Base Andrews is to provide protection to the president, vice president and other dignitaries in support of the United States Secret Service. Members of the unit also employ tools to dispose of improvised explosive devices, or decommissioned missiles.
Training for this explosive career field, held at Elgin Air Force base, Florida, was loaded with military discipline and proved to be arduous for the developing Airman.
"I've never been so exhausted," Mink stated. "For eight months, you wake up at 4 a.m. to be at formation at 5 a.m. At 5:30 a.m. you're on the bus to go school; from 6 to 9 a.m. you have to hit the books because you can't take the material home. The school day ends at 4:30 p.m. then it's time to physically train for an hour, eat and get up to do it all over again."
Students in this career are tested relentlessly during training, Mink said. You learn material in the morning and are expected to test perfectly on it in the afternoon, daily.
Moreover, Mink learned about the advanced technology that plays a key role in alleviating the threat of IED's. The F6 Robot, the Talon, the Pacbot, the Air Force Medium-Sized Robot and the Remote Control Bobcat are used for reconnaissance missions and bringing explosives to the fight.
Now armed with knowledge gained in technical school, Mink brings his conceptual ammunition to JBA's 11th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD, to teach mission partners here how to respond to hazardous threats.
"For certain units, it's a requirement to receive annual training on ground burst simulators, grenade simulators and smoke grenades," Mink said. "I enjoy training on survival systems. We recently conducted training with the 113th Washington D.C. Air National Guard. We taught them how to set up, recognize and evade guerilla warfare-style booby traps. The training reinforces the computer-based training that is done prior to a deployment."
Some of his expertise comes from his real-world deployment.
"I was deployed out of Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan with the Marines. From there I went to a forward operating base and worked on a driving route patrol," Mink stated.
Part of Mink's mission was to help train the new Afghan National Army bomb technician s there.
There have been much worse deployments as far as direct attacks on U.S. military members in the region, he said.
During his deployment a rare accident allowed him to see the good and bad side of the locals he was there to train and protect.
"We were driving up alongside a little canal when the road gave out, and the first of two MRAP [mine resistant ambush protected]vehicles in front of ours flipped into the water, Mink said. "There have only been about five water roll overs in Afghanistan and we were one of them."
No one was injured but they had to stay overnight in a local village. Where they were told the area wasn't friendly.
"When we were in the town center, the villagers there spoke kindly to us," Mink said. "I always take a [a gift] with me when I go on a mission. So I gave one to the 'big daddy,' or the man everyone in the village seemed to look up to. It made him feel pretty special I guess because he was walking around with his head in the clouds, happily telling everybody, 'Obama sent it to me.'"
Mink made it out of hostile territory with some positive stories to tell.
"The way I see a deployment is, it's what you put into it," Mink stated.
Mink said it takes having a level-head, just as well as derring-do, to persevere as an EOD Airman.
"As a career field, we're very fast-paced, but also laid back and calm-headed," Mink stated. "Because it's so stressful at times, we've learned how to make everyday life easier. Our unit operates as more of a family then a command structure."
Looking forward to life's next adventures, the career Airman said he plans to make staff sergeant and obtaining his bachelor in psychology soon. He recently married his girlfriend of six years, Hillary, and they will say be saying farewell to JBA and spend the next few years of Mink's career at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.