Saving lives one IED at a time: EOD techs brave bombs while others run away

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Angela Shepherd
  • 1st SOW Public Affairs
Squadrons and flights around the Air Force have their mottos and creeds. But none is more important perhaps than that of the explosive ordnance disposal career field: "Initial success or total failure." When you do what these Airmen do for a living, obviously nothing less than perfection is acceptable.

Their mission is simple - to neutralize the threat posed to other military members and civilians from unserviceable, excess or dangerous ordnance.

They're the military equivalent of the civilian bomb squad. In combat theaters where one of the enemy's main means of destruction is improvised explosive devices, EOD is in top demand, working in dangerous conditions every time they're called out.

"You know you're the one going in when everyone else is going the other way," said Master Sgt. Stoney Bilbo, a reservist from Duke Field who serves as the program manager for the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron EOD flight. "We're kind of like the firefighter that runs into the burning building. But you don't think about the danger because it's something that's bred into you from day one."

That "no fear, no fail" attitude recently earned four of Hurlburt's EOD Airmen Bronze Stars for their actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Master Sgt. Robert Dryman, Tech. Sgt. Alex Morgan, Staff Sgt. Joseph Deslauriers and Staff Sgt. Samuel McCalister were credited with being heroes and saving countless lives through their duties.

"It is a complete honor to receive a medal of this magnitude," Sergeant Deslauriers said. "Every day, EOD technicians are doing courageous and brave things in Iraq, and some are making the ultimate sacrifice. Every time I wear this medal, it will be in honor of the men and women who never made it home to receive theirs." 

A sad reminder of that ultimate sacrifice came just a couple of months ago when three EOD Airmen from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, were killed in Iraq. When a tragedy like that happens, the career field mourns the loss, but also uses it as an educational tool.

"We try to figure out what went wrong. Then we change and enhance our daily training back home and in the field to prevent it from happening again," Sergeant Dryman said.

While the job does see the most injuries and fatalities in the combat zones where IEDs are found far and wide, EOD Airmen must be on their toes at all times, even at home.

"The job is inherently dangerous, no matter where. Even when we're on the range at home training, everything has to be done just right," said Staff Sgt. Brad Ferguson, an EOD technician. "Even a mistake here at Hurlburt can be deadly, but you just have to be willing to take the risk."

That's why training is such an integral part of this career field. Whether it's in the classroom at the EOD shop or on the range practicing how to make different explosive charge configurations, when these Airmen train, they're training for their lives.