MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- “Those guys are crazy!” is the common response many Marines shout out when they talk about an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician.
Master Sgt. Donald Parrish, the officer in charge of EOD for Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 jokingly agrees, adding that “one of the prerequisites is that you have to be a little unstable.”
Those Marines itching to test their mettle and see if they have what it takes to handle a job that is sure to deliver hazardous assignments, the EOD military occupational specialty has boosted in size and is looking for Marines who are interested in filling the vacancies.
“The EOD mission has grown and more Marines are deploying overseas and augmenting other EOD teams,” Parrish said. “We have Marines who are going on back-to-back deployments.”
To help ease the burden of constant deployments, the Marine Corps has increased the number of positions in the occupational specialty and is expected to continue until 2008-2009. The number of seats for Marines at the EOD school has also increased to accommodate the number of Marines needed in the MOS.
“The Marine Corps now has a hundred seats per year and we still have fifty-two open,” Parrish said. “It is an all-service school and before there would only be one Marine per class, now there are twenty to twenty-four.”
On Jan. 20, the Enlisted Monitors from Headquarters Marine Corps are scheduled visit the Air Station. In the past, Marines could talk to the EOD monitor and a school instructor during the presentation, but this year the Air Station EOD Marines will be filling in, according to Parrish.
“Any Marines interested can come to the theater for an interview,” Parrish said.
Although the EOD field is looking for more Marines, there are many prerequisites that potential candidates will have to meet. Not every Marine is qualified; there are many issues that could exclude a Marine.
Senior lance corporals to sergeants who are at least 21-years-old are the only Marines currently being screened as potential EOD Marines. Besides the minimum age and rank requirements, several other restrictions exist.
“They must have a GT score of 110 or higher, can’t be color blind, must meet Marine Corps height and weight standards and no prior use of drugs in their military record,” Parrish said. “They also have to be eligible for secret clearance.”
If a Marine meets the preliminary qualifications, they will then undergo an interview process. The interview will include a stress test, personal fitness test and an essay.
“We want to get a feel for the person before giving a recommendation,” Parrish said. “We are a small field, so we are very selective.”
Most Marines who join the MOS agree that becoming an EOD technician is no easy task, according to Sgt. Ronald Perez, an EOD technician. The school is about seven months long and requires a Marine to not only be intelligent, but also be able to apply the techniques.
“It is a very demanding school,” Perez said. “It’s not just about book smarts or being good at tests, you have to be well-rounded.”
Although the school might be tough and the job is life threatening, it is the never-ending challenge that draws most of the Marines to the MOS, according to Perez.
“Sometimes you’ll be out on an emergency call, there will be times when you are sitting behind a desk and other times you will be on the range blowing stuff up,” Perez explained.
Perez, who just returned from EOD school himself, feels that he has joined an elite group of Marines in EOD.
“I became interested by just talking to the EOD Marines about their job,” Perez said. “After returning from Iraq, I decided to move into the MOS. It is a peculiar job and I love it.”
Unlike many other jobs, schooling is never complete as an EOD technician, according to Parrish. There are multiple schools that an EOD tech can attend to continue to build on their knowledge and enhance their skills.
“The fact that they can attend so many schools is what draws a lot of Marines,” Parrish said. “The Marines can attend everything from Anti-Terrorism Evasive Driving to Secret Service Schools.
Education does not stop with formal schools. On the job training is continuous, regardless of rank, according to Parrish. From lance corporal to master sergeant, EOD techs are always learning something new.
“You could be in the field for your entire career and not have learned everything,” Parrish said. “It’s hard for Marines to get bored in this MOS.”
Marines interested in becoming an EOD technician can also rest assured that they will have the latest technology at their fingertips.
“We have never had as much attention and funding as of now,” Parrish said. “(the Marine Corps) is listening and providing us the tools we need. We have got all kinds of attachments for our robots and getting a lot of gear.”
The EOD technicians believe what was already a unique and rewarding MOS is improving and will now be open to many more Marines.
“We are looking for Marines who are self-motivators, who have high morale and integrity,” Parrish said. “This is a great MOS on which Marines rely on each other and everybody listens. This is a challenging MOS that brings more to the table than any other job.”