Interview with Captain Katie E. Nisbet, Counter Small Unmanned Aerial System Section Lead, US Army Pacific

Can you briefly explain your background and how you build your expertise in Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Counter Improvised Explosive Device?

I attended and graduated from the U.S. Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal in 2013. I’ve spent the majority of my military career conducting, training, and managing EOD response to unexploded ordnance and suspect IED’s in support of military installations and law enforcement agencies.

You are the current EOD and Counter Small Unmanned Aerial System Section Lead at the US Army Pacific: what duties does your current post entail? What role does EOD and Counter Small Unmanned Aerial Systems play in the Pacific region? What are your main objectives?

My current duties include synchronizing operational and strategic planning, partner nation engagement, exercise planning, and equipment procurement and fielding for C-sUAS and EOD operations. I coordinate C-sUAS and EOD efforts with U.S. INDOPACIFIC Command, Headquarters Department of the Army, 5th Security Forces Assistance Brigade, and all USARPAC subordinate units. I am also the Program Manager for the Humanitarian Mine Action Program for USARPAC. EOD forces provide freedom of maneuver and freedom of action for supported units by mitigating explosive hazards. C-sUAS operations focus on neutralizing the threat presented by sUAS. My main objectives are to plan for the employment of EOD forces and C-sUAS assets, ensure adequate EOD and C-sUAS support for U.S. Army equities in the Pacific, and understand and strengthen the capabilities of our partners and allies.

When you were Company Commander of the 722D EOD Company at Fort Bragg, what activities were you carrying out as part of your duty? The 722D EOD Company at Fort Bragg is one of only two conventional Airborne capable EOD companies in the U.S. Army. During my command I was responsible for the readiness, training, mission success, and well-being of my Soldiers and paratroopers. We provided uninterrupted EOD response to Fort Bragg and the surrounding area while training to assume the Immediate Response Force mission to provide EOD capabilities to the 82D Airborne Division, a versatile force capable of strategically deploying to a variety of worldwide contingencies.

Congratulations for winning the Gen. Douglas MacArthur leadership award! Can you tell us a bit more about this specific award? What does this award recognize? What does it represent for you? Thank you so much! The award is presented each year to company grade officers and warrant officers who embody the values of Gen Douglas MacArthur: Duty, Honor, Country. It recognizes leaders for their accomplishments, dedication, and potential for future success. It was an impressive group of awardees and I was honored to be in the same room with them. To me the award represents the countless people who have encouraged, supported, and advocated for me throughout the years. I am continuously humbled especially by the Soldiers, NCO’s, and Officers of the 722D EOD Company – few are as fortunate as I was to be surrounded by such experts and professionals.

As a young female leader, what is the main advice you would give to young women who aspire to cover a leadership position in defense, a traditionally male dominated sector?

A: Practice authentic leadership – you do not have to embody only traditionally masculine leadership qualities to be successful. Strength, grit, and toughness are important but there is also value in kindness, compassion, and empathy. Acquire mentors who provide candid feedback and advice. Set boundaries and standards for what you tolerate in your work environment. Relentlessly enforce those standards and surround yourself with people who do the same. Prepare yourself, ask questions, listen well, do your job, and never be afraid to speak up when something is not right.

As an expert in the field of EOD and C-IED, what is the biggest challenge for the US and the Pacific region when it comes to countering explosive devices?

A: Although I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, I think the biggest challenge in the Pacific is the geographic size and diversity of this theater. There is no single solution to countering explosive devices in the Pacific. Each nation facing an IED threat requires a tailored solution that includes information sharing and collaboration. Additionally, strengthening relationships and interoperability with partners in the region will be critical to this effort from the tactical to the strategic levels.

How did the current COVID-19 pandemic impact your work?

Many of the partner nation engagements scheduled for 2020 shifted from in-person to virtual. The command and our partners adapted to the new landscape and in many ways, it has opened up innovative opportunities to connect. Instead of single in-person engagements once a year, we are now able to meet more frequently throughout the year via digital platforms.

Finally, would you like to share any additional thoughts on the role and actions of the US Army in the fight against explosive threats? A: First, thank you for the opportunity to complete this interview. As we move into the future, our relationships with our partners and allies will become increasingly important. Countering explosive threats is a team effort and will require relationships based on mutual trust, information sharing, and cooperation.

Captain Katie E. Nisbet is from Clearwater, Florida. She attended Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts where she commissioned through ROTC as an Ordnance Officer with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 2012. She graduated from Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) training and served as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer with the 710th EOD Company at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. She then had the privilege to serve as the Aide de Camp for the Commanding General, 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland before serving in the 192D EOD Battalion, and as Company Commander, 722D EOD Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Captain Nisbet is currently stationed at the U.S. Army Pacific’s Asia Pacific Counter Improvised Explosive Device Fusion Center at Fort Shafter, Hawaii and is married to Captain Justin Holmes of Overland Park, Kansas.