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EOD: always fit to fight

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chandler Dobson, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, performs a deadlift at the EOD gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chandler Dobson, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, performs a deadlift at the EOD gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018. EOD Airmen focus on performing functional fitness exercises which help target areas specifically relevant to their work duties, such as lifting heavy practice bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chandler Dobson, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, closes his eyes to focus on his workout in the EOD gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chandler Dobson, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, closes his eyes to focus on his workout in the EOD gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018. EOD Airmen must prepare themselves both physically and mentally for the tasks such as clearing paths for fellow service members during deployments, cleaning up training grounds or assisting state law enforcement agencies in emergencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jordan Massey, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, performs an upper-body exercise at the EOD gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jordan Massey, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, performs an upper-body exercise at the EOD gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018. EOD Airmen are tasked with maintaining peak physical health with mandatory training five days per week. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight get chalk to better their grip on equipment during their workouts in the EOD gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018.

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight get chalk to better their grip on equipment during their workouts in the EOD gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018. EOD Airmen perform single and teamed exercises to push themselves toward peak physical readiness for deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jordan Massey, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, performs a fireman carry with Airman 1st Class Evan Cooling, 20th CES EOD apprentice, over his shoulders during physical training at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jordan Massey, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, performs a fireman carry with Airman 1st Class Evan Cooling, 20th CES EOD apprentice, over his shoulders during physical training at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 19, 2018. EOD Airmen must remain physically fit to tackle a variety of dangerous situations they may be placed in when detecting or disarming explosives during deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jordan Massey, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, stands in a bomb suit beside Airman 1st Class Evan Cooling, 20th CES EOD apprentice, before a flag mural displaying the names of fallen EOD technicians in their gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 23, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jordan Massey, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) craftsman, stands in a bomb suit beside Airman 1st Class Evan Cooling, 20th CES EOD apprentice, before a flag mural displaying the names of fallen EOD technicians in their gym at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 23, 2018. The wall reminds the 20th CES Airmen of the sacrifices other EOD members have made and why they must work to better themselves. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Surrounded by the sound of clinking metal and upbeat music, a group of Airmen work to exhaustion as the sun begins to rise.

With their clothing soaked in sweat, their hands covered in chalk they may look like any other group of fitness enthusiasts building upon their strength and endurance, so their bodies can work at peak capacity.

For this group of 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal Airmen, working hard can mean the difference between life or death.

The safety of the team as well as those around them can be threatened as they clear paths for fellow service members during deployments, clean up training grounds or assist state law enforcement agencies with emergencies.

Staff Sgt. Jordan Massey, 20th CES EOD craftsman, said people who are not fit to face these threats are more likely to face consequences in the form of injuries or worse.

The Airmen are required to work on their fitness five days per week and choose to focus on tasks which help them improve duty performance. The day’s workout may consist of cardio, squats, fireman carries or a variety of deadlifts.

These targeted exercises benefit EOD technicians when they must face moving loads of 25 pound practice bombs for disposal and operating in 80 pound bomb suits.

“That gets very taxing on your body, so weightlifting helps keep your muscles conditioned,” said Airman 1st Class Evan Cooling, 20th CES EOD apprentice. “It’s the same with normal conditioning that really helps keep your stamina up. … If you have a really crumby day, you will be able to just keep going. It helps toughen that mental fortitude as well as the physical body.”

With the strain EOD Airmen put on their bodies while training, they are also strengthening the team and their mindsets by pushing each other to do better.

“I absolutely love my job,” said Cooling. “It’s a lot of fun. The atmosphere that we have here, the comradery between all of us is incredible and that’s one of the things that I was really looking forward to when I joined.”

As the 20th CES Airmen joke with each other during training, they build a family bond by continuing to push each other toward mission success, taking solace from the names of their fallen EOD wingmen adhered to a wall in honor of their sacrifices.

Working out means more to this team than passing a physical training test. It is the difference between victory and failure.