4 Wing manages danger from explosives

A member of the 4 Wing Explosive Ordnance Disposal team
A member of the 4 Wing Explosive Ordnance Disposal team wears protective gear while participating in a training exercise. Photo: OS Erica Seymour

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Jeff Gaye – The Courier

4 Wing Cold Lake has its own Explosives Disposal Flight (EDF), a group of highly-skilled technicians who keep on top of trends in explosives technology, respond to suspected threats, and render explosive weapons safe.

In modern warfare, home-made explosives (the Improvised Explosive Device, or IED) have gained in importance as insurgents have taken the place of uniformed combatants, and roadways and public squares have become the new battlefield.

The EDF’s technicians are drawn from the Air Weapons Technician trade. “These techs are a really odd mix of dangerous goods handlers, scene controllers, interrogation agents, X-ray operators/identifiers, and chemists; they’re mechanically inclined and can engineer explosives to achieve an effect,” said Captain Angela Dey, 4 EDF Commander.

Capt Dey’s deputy commander (who cannot be identified for security reasons) says there is a definite personality type that fits well with the EDF’s work. “Obviously we’re dealing with exceptional hazards. When everybody else is leaving the area, we are walking in,” says the deputy commander.

Training is continuous, as is keeping up on changes and trends in explosives. Operators have their usual military chains of command, but they also report through the Wing Commander to higher Joint Task Force organizations.

“They’re linked to top-notch intelligence collectors and the national and international community,” Capt Dey said. “In this digital age, it’s easier than ever to share information and experience. Everyone benefits from this collective approach.”

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) training starts with learning how to deal with ordnance used by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and allied air forces, past and present.

Obviously working with explosives carries a risk. Video imagery of controlled explosions has helped us understand the effects of shock waves.

If you see what looks like explosive ordnance, or a suspicious package, Capt Dey says do not touch the item. Consider taking a picture, and remove yourself from harms’ way. At that point, notify the police—Military Police if you are on a National Defence establishment, or the local police if you are elsewhere. These agencies will call in the EDF or appropriate civilian equivalent.

The deputy commander says to keep in mind the EDF is not an investigative body.

“If someone were to find a grenade in their vest from an exercise, EOD is not here to point the finger. All we care about is safing the ordnance and making sure that nobody is going to be at risk,” he said.

Capt Dey says the EDF is always looking for candidates. “If you are an air weapons tech and you’re interested in EOD, get in touch with 4 EDF at (780) 840-8000 extension 8393, or through your chain of command, as soon as possible. We have the best personnel and resources to help you achieve your goal of specializing in EOD.”

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