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EOD mission requires best and brightest Airmen

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, waits to be picked up by a Colorado Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015.  (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, waits to be picked up by a Colorado Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator, and Master Sgt. Richard Gibbons, flight chief with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, practice security techniques during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015.  (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator, and Master Sgt. Richard Gibbons, flight chief with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, practice security techniques during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Master Sgt. Richard Gibbons, flight chief with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, directs his team to safety prior to an explosive detonation during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015.  (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Master Sgt. Richard Gibbons, flight chief with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, directs his team to safety prior to an explosive detonation during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus and Staff Sgt. Robert Rich, explosive ordnance disposal operators with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, practice security techniques during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015.  (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus and Staff Sgt. Robert Rich, explosive ordnance disposal operators with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, practice security techniques during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus and Senior Airman Brandon Ulmer, explosive ordnance disposal operators with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, practice security techniques during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015.  (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus and Senior Airman Brandon Ulmer, explosive ordnance disposal operators with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, practice security techniques during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, discusses the plan for finding and inactivating a hidden improvised explosive device during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015.  (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, discusses the plan for finding and inactivating a hidden improvised explosive device during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, investigates an explosive cache during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015.  (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, investigates an explosive cache during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, builds an explosive device to destroy a weapon cache during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015.  (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, builds an explosive device to destroy a weapon cache during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, communicates to his team about a weapon cache he found during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015.  (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, communicates to his team about a weapon cache he found during a training exercise at Airburst Range, Ft. Carson, Colo. May 12, 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Kinder Blacke)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, assists people down the rescue ladder while performing his full-time job as a firefighter with the Westminster Fire Department. (Photo courtesy of Senior Airman Darrell Linkus)
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Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, assists people down the rescue ladder while performing his full-time job as a firefighter with the Westminster Fire Department. (Photo courtesy of Senior Airman Darrell Linkus)

Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, carries a fire hose while training for his full-time job as a firefighter with the Westminster Fire Department. (Photo courtesy of Senior Airman Darrell Linkus)
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Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, carries a fire hose while training for his full-time job as a firefighter with the Westminster Fire Department. (Photo courtesy of Senior Airman Darrell Linkus)

BUCKLEY AFB, Colo. -- The explosive ordnance disposal mission is not for the faint of heart. Imagine having to locate a hidden improvised explosive device (a bomb!), in an active combat zone, and figuring out how to destroy it before it destroys you.

This is just one of the missions that the 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight trains to on a routine basis. 

Led by Master Sgt. Richard "Dick" Gibbons, EOD flight chief, the 140 EOD team is made up of three full-time members and five Traditional Guardsmen.

One of those part-time members is Senior Airman Darrell Linkus, explosive ordnance disposal operator with the 140 EOD Flight and full-time firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Westminster Fire Department.

Before joining the Colorado Air National Guard, Linkus had never even heard of EOD. When he met with the COANG recruiter, there were no firefighter jobs available at the time, so he began looking at other jobs on the list.

"When I asked the recruiter what the EOD job was, she said 'Oh yeah, those guys are nuts...' and I was immediately interested," Linkus said.

Later that week, Linkus met with Gibbons and saw videos of the EOD team blowing things up and doing other "crazy" stuff and his mind was made. Despite having to attend over a year of training with one of the highest washout rates in the military, Linkus was up for the challenge.

"I could see Darrell's motivation and drive from the very first time we met," Gibbons said. "I did not have a doubt about his ability to become a superior EOD operator and he has proven me right at every opportunity."

Upon attending EOD school, Linkus finally realized what he had signed up for. With 12-hour days, massive amounts of information to learn, and up to four tests a week that you must pass with at least an 85 percent, many Airmen simply fail to make it all the way through.

"The school was very challenging in many different ways," he said. "It's very long and very intense... to maintain that level of intensity for so long is challenging both physically and mentally."

Linkus mentioned that many of the tests are practical rather than written. "You have an instructor staring at you, watching every move you make to make sure you don't mess it up," he said. Failure to pass each test results in getting released from the training. After all, the motto of EOD is "Initial success or total failure," since that's how it often works when handling explosives.

Thankfully, Linkus earned his keep in the 140 EOD Flight, successfully graduating after a year of extreme training. Now, he faced the ongoing challenge of being a part-time EOD operator.

"I think that the most challenging part of the job, now that I have moved back to my civilian job and am a Traditional member of the 140 EOD Flight, is the amount of knowledge and skills that we are still required to stay proficient on," Linkus said. "When we come to drill weekend, it is non-stop training just to stay fresh and competent at our skill sets."

But just as he succeeded in EOD school, Linkus tackled this challenge and has proven to be a critical member of the team.

"He is a great EOD operator because of his attitude and commitment to everything that he does," Gibbons said. "He drives himself to be the best and inspires others to follow his example."

Linkus loves his job with EOD not only because he gets to blow thing up, but largely because of the people he works with. "The EOD career field is pretty small and tight knit," he said, which is important when the team is handling high stress, life and death situations.

Yet, as a firefighter, Linkus is somewhat used to it.

"I think that being a firefighter has helped with my ability to handle the stress of EOD school and the real-world mission of EOD," Linkus said. He is exceptionally calm under pressure, and performs both his EOD missions and firefighter tasks with pure professionalism.

"Darrell is the epitome of what a Citizen Airman is," Gibbons summarizes, "as a Westminster Firefighter and an EOD Airman, he truly serves Colorado in a way few can. I truly believe that the 140th EOD Flight would not be the world-class EOD flight that it is without him."