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STARBASE EOD 2 teaser.jpgFifth-grade students from Gouverneur Middle School meet with explosive ordnance disposal specialists Oct. 14 outside the Fort Drum STARBASE Academy for a STEM career demonstration. Soldiers explained how they are trained to detect, disarm, and dispose of explosive munitions. Afterward, students got to explore firsthand the massive transport vehicle the Soldiers arrived in and the robots they use on missions. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Explosive ordnance disposal Soldiers show students the STEM side of their profession

Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 17, 2022) – Class was in session Oct. 14 at the Fort Drum STARBASE Academy, but it wasn’t a typical classroom setting.

More than 40 fifth-grade students from Gouverneur Middle School met with a team of EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) specialists outside the schoolhouse, as young, inquisitive eyes darted around the robots and massive transport vehicle the Soldiers arrived in.

Soldiers with the 760th Ordnance Company, one of two EOD companies stationed at Fort Drum, explained how they are trained to detect, disarm, and dispose of explosive munitions.

“This is a great opportunity for us to share who we are and what we do with the students and let them see some of the tools we work,” said 1st Lt. Jude McDowell. “Not a lot of people, I think, have too much of an idea about what EOD does, so we’re here to answer any questions they have.”

And the students – hands raised – gladly peppered them with question after question until the Soldiers invited them to educate themselves about EOD by trying out the equipment.

Sgt. 1st Class Victor Campau told one group of students they could all cram into their transport vehicle, dubbed “the school bus,” but that it only seats four people.

That’s because the bulk of the space is for their equipment, such as the Talon 5 robot, which can grab ordnance with its manipulator arm and 360-degree rotating wrist. It can carry a payload of roughly 100 pounds and has a drag capacity of up to 170 pounds. Its smaller sibling, the SUGV, is portable enough for Soldiers to carry on their backs.

Students took turns operating both robot systems remotely while others tried on the protective suit and attempted to walk around with the additional 70-plus pounds on them – nearly 100 pounds if they also donned the helmet.

“The idea is to see if they can do some cognitive thinking under the weight of the suit,” McDowell said. “They call it ‘bomb suit dumb’ because after a certain amount time under the weight, heat and stress, your cognitive ability takes a bit of a dip.”

Joanne Witt, Fort Drum STARBASE Academy director, took a turn putting on the full suit. She said it was laborious moving inside it and a little disorientating. But at the same time, it gave her, and the students, an understanding of how difficult the Soldiers’ job must be and how much training it takes for them to be proficient at it.

“I grew up in this area and I’m still not familiar with many of the careers in the military,” she said. “I had no idea the technology and the science that is involved in some of these jobs, and what they are capable of doing with it. I’m incredibly impressed.”

Maj. Jeff Lydic, with 10th Mountain Division (LI) G9, oversees the Mountain Mentor program and assists with bringing different Army professionals to meet the STARBASE Academy students and relate how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) impacts their jobs.

“We are participating in these classes on a weekly basis to showcase Army career fields and the science and technology they use to accomplish their mission,” he said. “This is an incredible opportunity for our talented Soldiers to interact with local students and showcase how the same material they are learning in class impacts every single one of our Soldiers – from an infantryman on the ground to our aviators in the sky.”

Witt said that students were treated last week to an impromptu field trip when Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team were setting up a command post for the Mountain Peak exercise and invited them over.

Soldiers from 41st Engineer Battalion and 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, provided the children with a close-up look of the M-ATV, a multipurpose tactical vehicle capable of command and control, troop transport and weapon systems carrier functions, and the Satellite Transportable Terminal (STT) mobile communications system.

“The generosity of these different groups and their willingness to share their experiences has been wonderful,” Witt said. “The best thing about this is the students’ reactions. Look at their smiles and look at how they are talking with the Soldiers, asking questions. They love this.”