For Airmen in AFSC 3E8X, there’s no shame in the fact that they’re the only Specialists in the United States Air Force without a unique occupational badge. In fact, the Air Force’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel consider it a point of pride—because it means they’ve successfully completed some of the most physically demanding and mentally challenging training regimens ever required by the United States Armed Forces.

After completing the eight-and-a-half weeks that comprise Basic Training and Airmen’s Week, EOD candidates head to Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas for the Air Force’s preliminary EOD course, expanded in 2012 from a six-day affair with a heavy emphasis on academics to a 20-day regiment that includes physical fitness programs and hands-on training on top of the requisite bookwork. From there, it’s on to the 38-week program held at the Naval School of Explosive Ordnance Disposal at Eglin Air Force Base in the steamy climes of Florida—mandatory for any member of the armed services seeking the honor of wearing the Explosive Ordnance Disposal badge.

It’s not a career for the weak of heart, and the incredibly tough training regimen serves to weed out all but the most dedicated Airmen. Over the years, the attrition rate for USAF attendees at the Naval School EOD has been 75 percent—a number that decreased somewhat with the expansion of the Air Force’s prelim EOD school to include physical fitness training.

The almost exponential growth in the use of improvised explosive devices (IED) by hostile forces in the Global War on Terror has, to some extent, made even casual observers aware of some of the duties of EOD Specialists. First and foremost, their mission is to protect and safeguard personnel, equipment, resources, and even the environment from not only from IEDs, but also unexploded ordnance (UXO), undetonated munitions, and weapons of mass destruction. The latter can include everything from incendiary and even nuclear payloads to technologies designed to trigger the release of chemical, biological, and radiological elements.

They also carry out counter-IED and counter-WMD operations, armed with sophisticated equipment including CBRN (Chemical/Biological/Radiological/Nuclear) detectors, portable X-ray devices, and robots that can approach suspect devices without the threat of a loss of life. Their intimate knowledge of the tactics and techniques employed by enemy forces makes them an invaluable resource for commanders and other leaders during mission planning and briefing sessions.

The EOD badge has been nicknamed “The Crab” because of the shape formed by the insignia’s different elements—a World War II-era bomb, lightning bolts, protective shield. In the Air Force, the EOD badge is a joint service badge that is worn in addition to the Civil Engineer Craftsman badge; the Civil Engineer badge is worn by all 3E Air Force Specialists. Air Force Because this is a joint-service badge, EOD Airmen are awarded the Senior- and Master-level EOD badges based on their qualifications and leadership skills associated with EOD tasks rather than standard occupational badge criteria.

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