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MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Senior Airman Andrew Welch, 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron EOD journeyman, Staff Sgt. Jason Kreider and Staff Sgt. Dallas Bozema, 23rd CES EOD craftsmen, are three of the EOD members stationed here. Typically, about a quarter of these members are deployed in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Green)
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EOD technicians discuss deployed life, dangerous missions

Posted 11/9/2009   Updated 11/9/2009 Email story   Print story

    


by Airman 1st Class Brigitte Brantley
23rd Wing Public Affairs


11/9/2009 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.  -- Often, the flashiest, most dangerous and newsworthy events are carried out by the most reserved Airmen. This is never truer than the highly-trained men and women of the explosive ordinance disposal corps. While others might be standing boastful a safe distance behind the cordon area, these individuals are heading straight into the most dangerous of situations.

In the last four years, the Air Force EOD career field has experienced 10 deaths. Eight of these elite Airmen have suffered serious injuries in which they lost one or more limbs and 54 or more have been awarded with at least one Purple Heart Medal.

At any time, about a quarter of Moody's small EOD team may be deployed and all are trained to detect, identify and dispose of unsafe explosive devices. These Airmen often spend as much time deployed as they do at home.

Three members of Team Moody's "bomb squad" share their experiences about being deployed, working with other services and nationalities and being part of one of the Air Force's most dangerous career fields.

Staff Sgt. Dallas Bozeman, 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal craftsman, deployed twice to the Middle East. He joined the EOD career field because he wanted to be involved in an elite job that had immediate impact on what was occurring on the front lines. He said that although his family worries, they understand he wouldn't be happy doing anything else to support his country and branch of service.

"One of my most interesting missions was during my most recent deployment to Afghanistan. The goal of this large joint operations mission was to expand our battle space by building a combat outpost near a village that had been serving as a stronghold for Taliban groups and a conduit for their weapons. We were working with the Afghani army and police force as well as Canadian forces. We woke up at about 3 a.m. to get our 400-vehicle convoy prepared for the 20-mile trip. Once we arrived at our destination to construct our COP, we bunkered down for the night. In the morning, the civil engineers and security forces troops stayed behind to construct the outpost. We received intelligence overnight that an attack was being planned on us, so we sent out a 150-person foot patrol. If we were going to get attacked, we wanted to bring the fight to the enemy so the building of our outpost wouldn't be interrupted. We cleared the first village we came to. While clearing the artisan wells, we saw evidence they had recently been inhabited and some were even still smoking from fires. With such a large convoy heading toward them, of course they saw us coming and they took off. That afternoon, we came to the second village, which was where the Taliban had a stronghold. Meanwhile, we had three armored vehicles taking the same route out we had arrived on the day before to flank the village on the backside, so when we cleared it nobody would escape through the back. The first vehicle hit a 100-pound improvised explosive device and all the people inside were wounded.

"After the blast, there was so much dust we had zero visibility and the enemies thought they had confused us, so from the village 250 yards away, they opened fire. Once I heard that fire, my training took over and I went on autopilot. I knew we had to suppress fire, which ended up taking less than 10 minutes. I also knew we had to extract the wounded servicemembers from their vehicle, which we did while also collecting ammo and weapons that had been ejected. Finally, I knew we had to clear the area for any secondary IEDs that might be present. The remaining individuals cleared the route for extraction vehicles coming to assist the wounded. A crane came and lifted what was left of the destroyed armored vehicle onto a flat bed. A helicopter landed at our outpost on a pad that had been built overnight. This was one of the most intense missions because all within an hour, we suffered through those attacks, took care of the wounded and disarmed that second IED. The reason I joined the Air Force EOD career field was to take advantage of opportunities such as this where I can see the immediate results of what I am doing."

Staff Sgt. Jason Kreider, 23rd CES EOD craftsman, and Senior Airman Andrew Welch, 23rd CES EOD journeyman, deployed together from April to September of this year to Iraq. They both enjoyed getting the opportunity to work with other services as well as the Iraqi military. Their most meaningful mission occurred during a routine route clearance.

"The purpose of clearing routes while deployed was to give our vehicles and personnel, as well as the local populace, freedom of movement," said Sergeant Kreider. "As we are going along on this mission, our convoy comes across an IED. For this one, we used one of our robots to disarm it. Our convoy then continued on and 200 meters later came across another IED- the same type we had just taken care of, but because our robots' batteries had died, we couldn't disarm this one. We called for assistance and they told us another team was on the way, but we didn't want to go an hour without accomplishing anything. So, using the robotic arm of a Buffalo, which is a mine-protected clearance vehicle, I disarmed the second one, a feat which I haven't heard of being accomplished by anybody else."

The reason this mission was so meaningful to both Airmen was because of the sort of IED they disarmed.

"Recently before that trip, that same sort of device had injured two of our fellow EOD technicians," said Airman Welch. "This specific IED was designed to attack those in our career field and part of that attack was for each of those devices to have a secondary initiation system."

During their deployments, while not completing these missions, they also spent time helping the Iraqi military train their EOD teams.

"Despite what any negative beliefs might be, the Iraqi are very glad to have us there to help them," said Airman Welch. "It's their country and so they obviously care a lot about improving themselves and their military in order to protect it. A lot of them looked up to us just because we were part of the EOD team. I was very impressed by their motivation and how quickly they learned and caught on to what we were teaching, especially because many of them didn't have education past middle school."

In order to be deployable at all times, EOD technicians must stay up-to-date on training so they can accomplish tasks such as helping train the natives,

"Our training is year-round and we're expected to remain qualified in a wide variety of areas," said Sergeant Kreider. "We focus on everything and not just one area so that when a scenario occurs, we can handle it, no matter what it might be. While deployed, it definitely came in use. When I had to disarm the IED with the Buffalo arm, the training just kicked in. In this career, there's no time to worry or feel panicked. We remain calm under pressure and get the job done."



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