by MIDN 1/C Steve Warner
On July 22, MIDN 1/c Bessette and MIDN 1/c Warner arrived in Little Creek, Virginia, ready to begin their three week 1/c cruise in a small, prestigious community: Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). They were joined at Little Creek by two other ROTC 1/c midshipmen and five U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen. During the three weeks the MIDN were evaluated by members of the EOD community in order to determine if the candidates would be a good fit for the selective community.
The first week was a “gut check” for the MIDN; their mental and physical endurance was tested to see if they have what it would take to survive the community’s rigorous training. The week began with the physical screening test (PST), a fitness test consisting of a 500 yard swim, pushups, situps, pullups and a 1.5 mile run. Bessette and Warner excelled, with Bessette achieving one of the top pushup scores and Warner having the fastest run time. The rest of the week consisted of more physically demanding activities, which included rigorous calisthenics, performing “wet and sandy” PT on the beach, and sprints up the sandy “Hill of Woe” before rolling back down the hill. Although sore by the end of the week, Bessette and Warner made it through these challenges with their heads held high.
The second week was a nice change of pace as the MIDN ventured to Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Virginia to begin their second stage of training. Here, they engaged in a myriad of activities that were new to them, but routine for an EOD technician. They completed a M4 Rifle and Beretta pistol qualification, shot a .50 caliber and M240 machine guns from the back of a Humvee, learned land navigation, and completed a Leadership Reaction Course (LRC) that tested each midshipman’s problem solving skills. The LRC consisted of a series of small complex puzzles. Wrong answers were penalized by having to jump into the murky, slimy water. MIDN Bessette helped lead his team to successful completion of all the puzzles without ever having to jump into the grimy substance. Warner, on the other hand, was not quite as successful.
For the final week, the midshipmen traveled back to Little Creek to shadow EOD Mobile Unit 2 in order to understand what EOD technicians do on a day-to-day basis. They observed and actively participated as hostages in hostage rescue drills and as victims of land mine drills. The midshipmen were also given the opportunity to see some of the equipment that EOD techs use on the job such as the Talon robot and the MK-16 diving apparatus. At the end of the cruise, the midshipmen took one final PST before sitting through a demanding selection board. Here, EOD officers and chiefs grilled the Midshipmen with questions, testing their communication skills and their ability to stay composed under pressure. While some midshipmen handled the challenge better than others, all of them learned something from the experience.
As the cruise came to a close, Warner and Bessette were left with an unparalleled experience they would not have anywhere else. They felt fortunate to be able to observe and experience a relatively unknown Naval community. While Warner has decided that he would be a better fit elsewhere, Bessette remains hopeful that he will be honored with the 1190 designator. Regardless, both midshipmen came out of the cruise stronger than they were before.