Kentucky's 123rd EOD Flight named top unit in Air National Guard

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Vicky Spesard
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight has been awarded the coveted 2015 Senior Master Sgt. Gerald J. Stryzak Outstanding EOD Flight Award as the top such unit in the Air National Guard.

The 15-man unit, part of the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron here, earned the award based on its many successful missions locally and across the United States, according to the award citation.

"We are probably the most active EOD flight in the Air National Guard," explained Maj. Keith Smith, EOD flight commander. "We are constantly pushing for range clearing assignments and working on training missions. We also respond to any local incidents that may pop up needing our attention."

Those can include anything from assisting local police with clearing booby traps from drug houses to disposing of World War II ordnance donated to local museums.

In the past year, the flight has aided the Indiana State Police six times, spent more than 5,000 man-hours clearing ranges in three different states, supported explosive-detection training for the Louisville Regional Airport and Authority and Metro Police K-9 units, and assisted the Indiana and Kentucky state police bomb squads with efficiency training.

All of this took place while unit members responded to calls from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and providing support that directly protected the president of the United States, the vice president and visiting dignitaries.

With the high tempo of operations, Smith focuses his efforts on the safety of his team members, training and preparation for what might come their way. His philosophy is centered on mentoring and leading by example, utilizing senior staff to teach younger Airmen.

"Training here is pretty intense," Smith said. "We train for our primary mission, which is protection of our base. But we also need to be ready when the call comes in from someone else who may need our services."

This focus was demonstrated during a recent exercise for Smith's junior enlisted members. The trainer, a senior flight member, presented young airmen with a scenario involving a perpetrator who forcibly drove onto the base in a pickup truck that possibly contained an explosive.

The airmen had to don the proper gear, use the correct detecting equipment, and walk through the procedures of identifying, disarming and destroying the device, all under the watchful eyes of their trainers.

"These guys are an incredible team," said Smith as he watched his members working on the training scenario. "I can't say enough about them. They train hard, play hard and are an incredible group of professionals. We are truly a family."

Echoing Smith's sentiment was Lt. Col. Phillip Howard, commander of the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron, who expressed his respect and admiration for the flight.

"EOD did a fantastic job last year," he said. "Overall, these guys are in and out of our local community all the time. They offer local support when needed and do a whole list of things folks may not realize. They are a close-knit group doing outstanding work, and I am really very proud of them."