U.S. Air Force Airmen 1st Class Alex Westing and Devin Paulino, both with the 354th Comptroller Squadron, race through an obstacle course during an explosive ordnance disposal work center tour July 25, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Airmen put on an 80-pound EOD 9 bomb suit, raced back and forth in a parking lot and attempted to locate inert improvised explosive devices in and around a Humvee. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Turner/Released)
On Sept. 23, 2013, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) Capt. Ashley Sorensen set a Guinness World Record for the fastest woman to run 1 mile while wearing a bomb disposal suit with a time of 11:06 at the University of Hawaii Manoa athletics track in Honolulu.
Scott Davidson, the CEO of Government Contracts Operations and co-founder of BourBiz, saw Sorensen’s world-record-setting accomplishment. Shortly after, the world record came up during a conversation with his fellow veteran friend, a former US Navy SEAL, who thought he could beat the men’s world record for the 1-mile run in a bomb disposal suit. Another friend, a former US Army Ranger, chimed in saying he could beat the Navy SEAL’s time.
Davidson decided to challenge them both to compete in coordination with an event to raise money for the EOD Warrior Foundation. Davidson had served on the enlisted side before switching over to become an officer in the Army. He was medically retired at the rank of captain after sustaining combat-related injuries during a deployment to Iraq in 2007. His motivation to raise money for the foundation sparked from those prior deployments.
“When I was deployed for one of my tours, I worked counter-IED. I developed a great admiration for EOD when we would go out on patrol and the route would go black,” said Davidson. “We needed someone to go walk up there. I mean, I was always enamored by the fact that they would just go up there — it’s insane.”
It spoke volumes to Davidson that the men and women of EOD, regardless of branch, would walk up to a daisy chain IED and defuse the devices for the safety of their brothers and sisters out on patrol. With his motivation to help the EOD community — and wanting to settle the debate among his friends — he launched the event, saying, “Let’s see who can break the record for a good cause.”
In March 2019, the first Bomb Suit Run commenced with two parts. The first half of the event entailed a family-friendly 5K race. In the second half, those challengers attempting to break the record got into their bomb disposal suits to run the mile.
When the race was over, the competitors had fallen short of breaking the world record, but the event raised over $10,000 for the EOD Warrior Foundation. With this success, Davidson, along with Ken Falke, the founder of the EOD Warrior Foundation, decided to keep the event going every year in order to raise awareness of the EOD profession as well as raise money for the foundation.
They needed competitors for the upcoming event. Through mutual contacts, they connected with Capt. Kaitlyn Hernandez, the current company commander of the 717th Ordnance Disposal Company. Hernandez, a bona fide athlete, is also a friend of Sorensen from when they played on the same rugby team together. She is accustomed to wearing the bomb suit and is confident she can break the world record.
As soon as BourBiz approached Hernandez about attempting the record, she threw on her bomb suit and executed a practice run to get an idea of how she would do after training for it. She didn’t have much time before the actual attempt was scheduled to take place. Hernandez finished her first go in 11:10, only four seconds away from the female world record. The practice run filled her with confidence and also taught her a couple of valuable lessons for the next time she ran the bomb suit mile.
She hadn’t realized how badly the 92-pound bomb suit was going to bounce and how it would mess with her running stride. Now that she knew where to tighten up the bomb suit to ensure a more balanced run, she was confident that the record would be hers. After all, the EOD saying is “Initial success or total failure.”
The 2020 2nd Annual Bomb Suit Run and Family 5K was planned for March 28, 2020, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Come hell or high water, we’re going to do it in March ,” said Davidson. If COVID restrictions are still in place, they will run the record-attempt portion of the event for Hernandez within the guidelines. The Family 5K will only happen if the restrictions are lifted. The precise date and time are to be determined.
Meanwhile, Hernandez is training five days a week as well as adjusting her diet to handle the additional training for the bomb suit run. She is motivated to train hard and break the world record to raise awareness of the EOD profession and remember her fallen comrades.
“I think that now I have enough time to train for it, I don’t think it should be an issue,” Hernandez said. “Plus, you show up on game day, and sometimes magic happens, and you are a better performer.”
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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