Even though he’s 18 years old, Van Horn High School senior Matthew Harris still had to wear a diaper Tuesday.
Technically, he volunteered, and it certainly isn’t the garden-variety disposable diaper.
A team of Navy EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) technicians visited Independence high schools this week – Truman and William Chrisman on Monday and Van Horn on Tuesday – giving presentations featuring the robots and gear they use for bomb diffusions.
Considered perhaps the world’s ultimate bomb squad, the Navy EOD team members train more than 51 weeks, learning to disarm a variety of explosives and chemical weapons on land and under water. Their presentations were geared to entice students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects.
At Van Horn, they showed off their robots before dressing Harris in the multi-piece protective suit, which resembles that worn by a firefighter, with an astronaut-like helmet and heavy plating in specific areas. The “diaper” part of the suit, as the technicians nickname it, naturally protects the general groin area.
“Hot. It has weight on it, but it’s not too bad,” Harris said of the suit while robotics and Junior ROTC students took in the presentation.
Harris, a fourth-year Junior ROTC student, said he enjoyed learning about the different robots.
“The armor, if you try to bend a certain way, it can make that difficult,” he said. “They said it’s about 80 pounds. Most of it is up here (in the chest).”
Retired Army First Sgt. Allen Roberson, one of the ROTC instructors, said he used some of the equipment himself in Iraq.
“You always want to share some of what the soldiers do in real life and show how it applies to education,” he said.
One of the technicians, Senior Master Chief Roy Vaneck, warned the students of the dangers of homemade explosives – “Some of the most sensitive things we’ve dealt with,” he said – and how drugs can quickly derail a military stint.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Michael Byrd, Van Horn’s senior instructor, emphasized that Tuesday’s presentation and the junior ROTC are much more about certain subjects and leadership development than serving as military recruiting tool.
“We’re not pushing the services as much as STEM,” he said. “This is an opportunity to make those connections, to convince them to take that next-level class.”
The Navy EOD team’s visit to the Independence schools is in conjunction with Navy Week and the Kansas City Aviation Expo at the Wheeler Downtown Airport this weekend. Members of the prestigious Blue Angels flight squadron will also be speaking with students this week.