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Unit busy dismantling bombs locally, abroad

Staff Sgt. Matthew Nuckolls and some Soldiers he was working with examine a crater in Afghanistan for forensic evidence. Sergeant Nuckolls is one of eight members of Peterson’s Explosive Ordinance Detachment who have recently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Staff Sgt. Matthew Nuckolls right and some Soldiers he was working with examine a crater in Afghanistan for forensic evidence. Sergeant Nuckolls is one of eight members of Peterson’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal Detachment who have recently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Staff Sgt. Kenneth Roads, formerly of Peterson’s Explosive Ordinance Detachment, destroys rockets on a timer pointed at Bagram. Most members of the Peterson unit have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they’ve helped dismantle IEDs and landmines. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Staff Sgt. Kenneth Roads, formerly of Peterson’s Explosive Ordinance Detachment, destroys rockets on a timer pointed at Bagram. Most members of the Peterson unit have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they’ve helped dismantle IEDs and landmines. (U.S. Air Force photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Most offices don't have the nose of an old bomb shell propping open its front door, but Peterson's Explosive Ordinance Disposal Detachment isn't your typical office.

Instead of pushing papers behind desks all day, the unit's 11 men and women spend their time dismantling bombs, landmines and other explosive devices at home as well as overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sound scary? The unit's members say it really isn't -- in fact, they say, it's a lot of fun.

"It's not mundane," said Staff Sgt. Layne Mayerstein. "Most of us are Type A personalities. We all enjoy being active, and it takes that kind of person to do this job."

And he's not kidding. The unit's members spend at least five days a week in physical training in order to move easily in protective gear, which weighs about 85 pounds.

Members suit up to practice at least once a week, training on a variety of bomb-dismantling robots and electronic equipment that allow team members to operate almost entirely remotely.

They also strap on the gear whenever they're called to respond to an emergency. And, because the EOD -- together with the Army -- shares responsibility for responding to all calls within an eight-hour radius, those emergencies can sometimes come in on a daily basis.

"It's really variable," Sergeant Mayerstein said. "But we cover parts of Wyoming and even New Mexico, so sometimes we'll get called out frequently."

The unit has been called out a lot lately for missions farther away than Wyoming. About 75 percent of the EOD's members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Four have done multiple tours, while two are preparing to go back soon.

The Airmen help dismantle the countries' ubiquitous IEDs and landmines, clearing routes for convoys as well as making areas safe for reconstruction efforts. Though the work is hard - Staff Sgt. Matt Nuckolls' Humvee was destroyed by an IED in Afghanistan - - all of the unit's members who have deployed say it's worth it.

"IEDs don't discriminate," Sergeant Nuckolls said. "They hit locals, Americans, military -- every IED we take care of saves lives. It's definitely making a difference."

Despite the life-and-death seriousness of the job, though, it has its lighter moments, too, members said. The team has been called out on "bombs" that have turned out to be everything from bags filled with spaghetti to boxes of Mary Kay catalogs.

"After 9/11 we got a lot of calls on mysterious white powders," Sergeant Mayerstein said. "It turned out Tide had been sending out samples in the mail. They would break, and people would end up with this white powder that smelled mysteriously like laundry detergent."

False calls aside, though, in the end, nothing beats the job's cool factor, said Senior Airman Tyson Johnson.

"Where else do you get paid to blow things up every day?" he said. "I can't think of another job like this."

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