Bomb squad technicians and explosive ordnance disposal specialists have one of the most terrifying and dangerous jobs in the world – they walk straught up to bombs, explosives and ordnance, sometimes under enemy fire – and attempt to deactivate them. As if that isn’t enough, some EOD specialists also parachute in and scuba dive to deactivate underwater bombs and mines.
This is definitely one of the toughest jobs out there, but for the trained, seasoned professionals who do this – it is a true calling.
Job description: Bomb disposal technicians tackle danger head on as they diffuse, deactivate and safely remove any explosives, bombs, and sometimes chemical, biological and nuclear devices. Bomb disposal technicians have many titles – depending on the agency and branch they work for: bomb disposal, bomb squad or bomb technicians in police forces and the FBI, or explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) in the military (army, navy, air force or marines).
Bomb disposal / explosive ordnance technicians or specialists arrive on scene (military EOD may can arrive by parachuting, helicopter or underwater insertion), assess the situation and establish the threat, and prepare to diffuse and deactivate the explosive device.
Bombs and explosives that bomb disposal / EOD tackle may be anything from primitive pipe or car bombs to advanced military grade weapons, mines, munitions and ordnance.
There are several methods of safely deactivating the bomb or explosive device – bomb disposal / EOD specialists can physically approach the device and deactivate it using their knowledge and experience, they may deploy and control advanced robots and technologies that deactivate the device – allowing the bomb specialist to keep a safe distance, or they may choose to detonate the device on scene or at a safer location.
Work environment: The basics of the job are the same – but the work environment may change, according to the agency and branch the bomb disposal / EOD specialist is serving in.
Police force and FBI bomb squad technicians will be at the office or training, until a call comes in. Then the bomb squad heads out for the suspected threat – which may be anywhere – from an underground parking lot to the roof of a building, in any nook and cranny imaginable.
Military EOD specialists may be stationed all over the world, and reach the suspected explosive device by parachuting, helicopter, diving, or overland vehicles. The explosive device may be on the road, in buildings, on a mountain or underwater.
Any bomb squad / EOD specialist will work for many hours, in all types of weather, at any time of day and any day of the year.
Also, bomb squad / EOD specialists use and deploy large amounts of gear and equipment, and may spend long periods of time in bulky, uncomfortable bomb suits.
Bomb squad / EOD specialists work in teams and groups, and the sense of comradely is very strong amongst them.
Fatality rates: No reliable information relates to bomb squad / EOD death or injury rates.
Gender: Though available to both men and women, this is a male dominated occupation.
What makes it a dangerous job: This job tackles danger head on – and many see it as one of the most dangerous jobs on earth. Bomb squad / EOD specialists face the constant risk of being killed or seriously injured by the bombs and explosive devices they are trying to defuse. Although these are highly trained professionals, the bombs and explosives they are deactivating can still explode uncontrollably. This job is also extremely nerve racking – and seeing the aftermath of a bomb or other explosive device can have a strong, permanent impact on one’s sanity.
Also, many of the military EOD specialists are part of the special forces community, who are trained to parachute, scuba dive and undergo counter terrorism courses – all dangerous, high risk activities.
Hours / Lifestyle: Again – the hours and lifestyle depends on the agency and branch the bomb squad / EOD specialist is in. Police forces and the FBI need their bomb squads always ready, so bomb squad technicians work in shifts – which can be at night, on weekends and holidays.
Military EOD specialists can be sent overseas for tours of several months, and may be away from home for long periods of time.
Pay: Bomb squad / EOD specialists salary varies, depending on the agency, branch and experience of the technician / specialist. Some sites find the average annual salary for bomb squad / EOD specialists of all services to be $54,000. In the military, the salary differs – where Navy EOD specialists earn the most. Also – the Navy hands out large signing bonuses for EOD specialists – between $40,000 and $150,000.
Requirements: Each service and branch has its own requirements: The Navy accepts US citizens younger than 30, with no criminal record for the previous year, that must pass a medical diving exam and pressure test.
The Army requires applicants to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, and to pass with a proper grade for the EOD training program.
Every applicant must possess nerves of steel, be completely cool under pressure, and have strong problem solving capabilities.
Training: Training is long and difficult, as bomb squad / EOD specialists must be highly professional in their line of work. The Navy EOD technician course is roughly one year, and covers all fields of explosive and ordnance: air ordnance, improvised explosive devices, nuclear ordnance and underwater ordnance. The course also includes combat diving, parachute training and small arms and counter terrorism training.
Air Force EOD training lasts for 6 months, and the Army EOD specialist training lasts for 49 weeks.
Bomb squad technician training for police forces and the FBI can last up to 8 months, depending on the course taken.
Career opportunities: Bomb squad / EOD specialists can advance by becoming officers and climbing the ranks of their service and branch, or becoming experts in certain fields and turning into instructors or senior EOD technicians.
Job opportunities: Bomb squad technicians and EOD specialists are usually needed by governments only – so jobs can be found in local or state police forces, the FBI, and all branches of the military.
Job prospects: It is difficult to forecast the future prospects for this occupation, but the National Bureau of Labor Statistics sees a 10% increase in the employment of police officers until 2018, including bomb squad technicians. Experience in this field is priceless, and many services and branches will try to hold on to their experienced operators, as they can’t be replaced.
Further reading material:
Other dangerous explosives jobs:
Photo by: USArmyAfrica / flickr