Ask a Soldier

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer Blake Malcom answers three questions about his experience as a guest scientist at Los Alamos.

By Whitney Spivey | March 19, 2020

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Los Alamos National Laboratory

In August 2019, Army Captain Blake Malcom left his position as an explosives ordnance disposal (EOD) company commander and battalion operations officer at Fort Carson in Colorado. Malcom headed south to Los Alamos, where he began a one-year assignment as a guest scientist with the Lab’s Explosive Science and Shock Physics group.

The move is made possible by the Department of Defense’s Training with Industry (TWI) program, which annually matches 63 military personnel with innovative companies around the country. A maintenance person might spend a year at Caterpillar Inc., for example, or a logistician might go to FedEx. “As an EOD officer,” Malcom explains, “I have the opportunity to work at Los Alamos in the Explosive Science and Shock Physics group.”

NSS caught up with Malcom to find out exactly what that work entails.

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In 2013, Malcom was deployed to Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy Blake Malcom

What is a typical day for you at Los Alamos?

Each day is new and exciting. This opportunity has let me see how another organization besides DoD manages explosives safety, inventory, and applications. I also get to observe and participate in cutting-edge explosives experiments. I try to spend as much time as possible at firing points, assisting in setting up experiments. It’s exhilarating to capture data at the point of detonation.

What’s it like interacting with scientists daily?

I have developed great contacts who are exceptional problem solvers, teachers, and mentors. These people have redefined the way I think about what makes a successful leader and what makes a successful team. My time at Los Alamos will certainly help me create a problem-solving culture within the Army units I will lead in the future.

What’s something interesting that you’ve learned at Los Alamos?

I’m afraid that’s classified…but a close second is learning about the weapons complex—across the Laboratory and across the entire Department of Energy. Seeing the moving parts—the tools and talents—in action and having an opportunity to see and participate in projects getting done has really opened my eyes to what a hardworking team can accomplish. This experience has been a highlight of my military service. I wish the assignment was longer than one year. There is way too much to learn here.