Tech by VICE

We Are Three Former Bomb Techs Driving a Rally Car Across Europe and Asia

The race begins in 48 hours. What have we gotten ourselves into?

by Justin Hamilton
Jul 17 2015, 3:15pm

L to R: Matt, Tyler, and Justin. Together at last. Photo: Matt Cook

This is the first in a series of dispatches. Read more about why we're sponsoring a rally car in this year's Mongol Rally.

LONDON — On a cold, dreary day last November my buddy Matt sent out a message on Facebook, asking who wanted to drive a quarter of the way around the world in a shoddy car in the Mongol Rally, which has been called "the greatest race in the world." It was a joke at first, until it grew into the soup sandwich it is now.

We formed a team and named ourselves The Mad Bombers, because we're all former Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians. We actually bought a car, with a tiny 1.0L engine, just as one of three official Mongol rules states. The race is about to begin.

My name is Justin. I am former US Air Force, and am now attending law school. I just got married. I've been fortunate to travel the world, utilizing the bomb tech's unique toolkit along the way. I contacted Matt after he put out a call for potential teammates and we had a two-hour planning conversation about the race. We had a million ideas and wanted to do each one immediately.

Fortunately Matt is a bit more methodical than I, so we took our time getting things in place to officially launch our campaign. Matt is former Army, and went on multiple deployments with the 75th Ordnance Company. He has since continued working in the EOD field as a contractor. He's our photographer, a rock climber, and a snowboarder.

"I think the Mongol Rally is a great symbol of the challenges we face as EOD techs," he told me, while thinking about our upcoming trek. "I'm doing this for our brothers and sisters who can't."

Getting our bearings somewhere outside London. Photo: Matt Cook

Tyler is former Air Force too. He grew up in a small town in Minnesota, deployed as an EOD tech, and then also worked as a contractor, doing forensics and intelligence training. Now, he manages a private equity fund. "While I no longer work in the EOD field," Tyler said, "the men and women who have conducted these types of operations will always be my brothers and sisters."

Our desire to travel the world in search of adventure stems in part from our military experiences. We want to conquer the unthinkable and live life to the fullest. But as you can probably tell, we're doing the Mongol Rally for more than a good time. The Rally requires us to raise at least £1000—£500 for CoolEarth, a charity that works with indigenous villages to stop rainforest destruction, and the remainder to a charity of our choice. We have picked the EOD Warrior Foundation.

We have many friends who have made the ultimate sacrifice, who are forever memorialized on the EOD Memorial, and numerous others who have been severely injured. The foundation provides scholarships and financial assistance to the families of the fallen, and provides help to those learning to live with amputations and brain injuries. We all haeve friends who have benefitted from the foundation, and this rally provides a platform for us to give back.

For now, we're out sourcing the last parts for our car. The race begins in 48 hours. What have we gotten ourselves into?

Brian Castner contributed to this dispatch.