What is UXO? Let me ask you a question. What is the most bombed country on the planet? The United States! That's saying something based on our military history. In fact there are over 3500 munitions response sites located over all 50 states.
Basically, our war fighters are practicing all the time. Our bases here in the Continental US (CONUS) and overseas (OCONUS) are littered with UneXploded Ordnance.
Japanese Air Dropped Bomb found in Papua New Guinea
UXO is the acronym for Unexploded Ordnance. That’s right! Bombs that should have gone off but didn’t! This might be a good place for you to put this book down so that you can go back to your “normal” life.
Unexploded Ordnance History
The Unexploded Ordnance field came about to clean up all the unexploded bombs that remain from our bombing ranges on military bases.
Before the industry being turned over to civilian Bomb Technicians, Unexploded bombs were taken care of by EOD Techs. EOD stands for Explosive Ordnance Disposal. EOD Techs are highly trained to deal with all kinds of unexploded ordnance to include conducting RSP’s or Render Safe Procedures on all kinds of ordnance and IED's. UXO Techs do not do RSP’s but do dispose of ordnance with a suitable amount of explosives. (Learn more about EOD! Click Here.)
The UXO Grid at Hanford Facility, Washington
All four branches of the military have EOD Techs and all attend NAVSCOLEOD, Navy School Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Whether officer or enlisted, the class is the same. As I was Navy EOD, I, like all Navy EOD Techs, had to be a Navy Diver as well.
Navy EOD distinguishes itself as the branch that takes care of weapons that happen to be underwater and also be Airborne which is why Navy EOD integrates so easily into SEAL's and Special Forces.
EOD Techs can RSP, render safe, weapons including landmines, air and ground fired rockets, missiles, IED’s or Improvised Explosive Devices, biological, nuclear and chemical weapons.
UXO Daily Life on the Grid
The team, made of the SUXOS, Safety / Quality Control, Team Leader(s), Tech III's, II's and I's, meet for the morning Tailgate Brief.
This brief happens everyday on every grid in every country. The Safety QC goes over different safety aspects as reminders to pay attention while we're working.
After the Tailgate Brief, the SUXOS says he what he needs to about what his expectations are on accomplishments for the day to stay on schedule.
What do you do as a Unexploded Ordnance Tech I? Basically, you’re going out with your team, Trimble GPS in hand, to find suspect UXO with two different kinds of metal detectors, the Schonstedt and the White's. When the detector rings off, you dig down to find out what the anomaly is. If it’s UXO then you would either blow it in place (BIP), carry it to a safe disposal area (SDA) or call the base EOD team and they’ll take care of it.
You have periodic breaks throughout the day and a lunch break. We always bring our lunches because we're generally out in the middle of nowhere and it's too hard to get to a deli and back in time.
Jokingly, we refer to each other as "Highest Paid Ditch Diggers" or "Migrant Bomb Pickers."
How’s the pay? Because most Unexploded Ordnance jobs fall under the guidance of the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and are paid for by some federal agency, your wages fall under the federal wage determination rate.
As of now, I believe the base pay for a UXO Tech I is $23.50 per hour. Not bad for 4 weeks of school. Now let’s add in your hazard pay of 4% or 8% or another $0.94 - $1.88 per hour. Now you’re at $25.38 per hour. Now let’s add Benefits in Kind (BIK) of $3.30 per hour for $28.68 per hour.
Just from the hourly side of deciding to do this you’re looking at $1,147.20 per week or $57,360 annually but that’s not all we’ll be adding in! This is also based on 40 hours per week. I generally work 50-65 hours per week and have on occasion been at 74 hours.
UXO Pay...But Wait! There's More!
Because you’ll travel to your range and stay in a hotel, you’ll be authorized Per Diem. This is the money you receive to pay for food and incidentals. Generally, you’ll be looking at $45 -$65 per day just to eat. I've been paid as much as $141 for food, seven days a week for over 6 weeks.
Per Diem is paid 7 days a week. Not just the day you work. There are two ways hotel is paid for and I’ve experienced having my hotel paid each way. I can get the hotel room and be reimbursed for the expense of the hotel. I always stay where the team is because logistically, it’s easier to meet up in the morning.
You could also be paid a flat rate Per Diem which includes money for food and your hotel. I’ve received about $120-$140 per day but I had to pay for the hotel and my food out of that. My friend Jason was just hired and is receiving $153 Per Diem for a job that is not far from his home. That's over $4500 a month tax free for food and a place to live and is not counting his hourly pay. You'd have to make at least $6000 a month before taxes to bring that home.
On a longer job, say 3 months or longer, this is great as you can rent an apartment with some of the team and bank some great money. Everyone is making $3600 per month for food and rent. You can get a nice place and eat well. Per Diem is not taxable so what you keep, if you don’t eat it and drink it up, is all yours.
Put your $1147 pay and your $350 together for about $1500 per week! And that’s as a new UXO Tech I just out of a 4 week school and an OSHA course that you can do online.
And Even More!
I do want to mention that if you drive from your home to the job, you’ll be authorized about $0.50 per mile. I always try to drive to the job and from the hotel to the actual job site. Again, this reimbursement is non-taxable. It goes in your pocket. If I do fly to a job, I'm driving a new rental SUV.
Does your current employer pay for your food directly 7 days a week?
Does your current employer pay you $.50 per mile to drive to and from work?
Does your current employer let you blow things up on purpose?
What do you need to begin a career as an UXO Technician?
You will need to take the OSHA certified course called 40 Hour HAZWOPER. This course is actually a prerequisite for UXO school. Covers the safety aspects of working in hazardous environments. This course is also mandatory for those participating in oil remediation efforts like we had in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.
You'll also need your First Aid, CPR & AED training which can be done online.
You will then need to get a physical with a physician's statement that you are cleared to work in the field.
Take a look at our UXO Gear page on this site to see the kind of gear that is best for working on the Grid.
Not where you want to be? Need to drop a few LB's? Here's the plan that will get you where you need to be!
Finally, attend the 4 week Unexploded Ordnance training course at TEEX which is part of Texas A&M.
There are a couple of UXO schools but TEEX is by far the best. Ed Fritz, former Navy EOD, is the primary instructor and ensures you get the biggest bang for the buck. When you graduate TEEX, you'll be ready to hit the grid.
That's it and you are a certified UXO technician and able to work
bombing ranges here in the US and many of the other exciting places
around the world. You are Globally Employable.
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