‘Expecting the unexpected’: Army competition identifies best EOD troops in South Korea
Stars and Stripes January 19, 2023
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Soldiers from the Army’s sole explosive ordnance disposal unit in South Korea recently competed for the title of Korea EOD Team of the Year.
Three teams of three soldiers within the 718th Ordnance Company (EOD), 23rd Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Battalion vied for three days in an event that ended Jan. 13.
Contestants rotated through three short lanes that included several challenges, such as using metal detectors to find unexploded ordnance, dealing with a hidden, simulated improvised rocket launcher and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
The competition and their daily duties are particularly challenging due to South Korea’s mountainous terrain, 1st Lt. Andrew Bejean, a 718th Ordnance Company platoon leader and an event organizer, told Stars and Stripes on Jan. 11.
“We definitely have to do a little bit of work climbing up mountains, doing response calls on various UXOs,” he said.
Another soldier said the competition also serves as a learning opportunity for EOD troops.
“It’s always a good time to learn and teach the younger soldiers,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Gersper, a contestant and a 718th Ordnance Company team leader. “There’s always curveballs — it’s in the nature of our job. We’re always expecting the unexpected.”
Despite the nine months of schooling a soldier goes through to become an EOD specialist, “you’re never done and there’s always more to learn,” he said.
“A lot of times, the team leader has so much to focus on and you kind of get the horse-blinder effect — you’re hyper focused,” Gersper said. “So having a team member who can give you a reality check and pull you back in is vital.”
Staff Sgt. Austin Beekman, of Spokane, Wash.; Sgt. Brandon Leap, of Long Island, N.Y.; and Spc. Hunter Thomason, of Kalispell, Mont., were declared the best EOD team on the peninsula at the end of the competition.
In February, they’ll go up against their colleagues from Hawaii and Alaska for U.S. Army Pacific’s EOD Team of the Year title. That winning team will advance to the Department of the Army’s competition at an undetermined date.