News: 52nd Ordnance Group completes Afghan mission
Story by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot
BAGRAM, Afghanistan – In 2006, the International Security Assistance Force formed a specialized unit to combat the insurgent’s weapon of choice on the Afghanistan battlefield: the improvised explosive device. That unit is Combined Joint Task Force Paladin.
For the past 12 months, the 52nd Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) out of Fort Campbell, Ky., executed command and control of TF Paladin. They cased their colors July 15 in a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field, marking the end of their deployment and the beginning of that of the 71st Ord. Group out of Fort Carson, Colo.
U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. James B. Laster, deputy chief of staff for combined joint operations, International Security Assistance Force, spoke of the accomplishments of the 52nd Ord. Grp.
“As the 52nd EOD Group prepares to transfer command and control of CJTF Paladin to the 71st EOD Group, I reflect in astonishment over the counter-IED effects they have created during their deployment,” Laster said. “Under your command, Paladin conducted thousands of EOD combat missions to include the render safe of over 11,000 IEDs.
“You expertly managed and led five theater combined explosives exploitation labs that processed thousands of pieces of evidence leading to biometric matches to insurgents. Paladin supported rule of law efforts across the Combined Joint Operations Area by providing prosecution support packages to the Afghan judicial system resulting in a steady stream of convictions.”
“Paladin’s efforts and contributions have been lauded by International Joint Command as the model for how to map and target a network of networks. Simply stated, the leadership of [Col. Tom Langowski] and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Hockstedler, and the relentless efforts your team contributed in the C-IED fight saved countless lives in this critical and pivotal year for Afghanistan and our nation. Congratulations on a job well done.”
Laster then welcomed the 71st Ord. Grp. as the new command team for TF Paladin.
“Col. Bradley and Command Sgt. Maj. Woods, your personal C-IED experience in Iraq, and your meticulous preparation of your headquarters make you the right choice for this command at this moment. I look forward to working with you and your great team, and I know that you will excel and exceed all expectations.”
TF Paladin provides counter-IED for battle space owners in all corners of Afghanistan and is comprised of units and individual augmentees from all branches of service, contractors, and coalition forces.
U.S. Army Col. Tom Langowski of Port Edwards, Wisc., 52nd Ord. Grp. commander, shared his thoughts on his unit’s completion of its year-long deployment.
“As I reflect on the last 12 months and assess the effects we had in Afghanistan, I begin by considering that there were close to 18,000 IEDs found and cleared,” said Langowski to the sizable crowd on hand. “Now imagine what the casualty rate would have been if our Paladin EOD defeat teams did not clear the thousands of IEDs they so effectively rendered safe.”
He asked the audience to consider the great amount of evidence that Paladin’s five exploitation labs processed - literally thousands of pieces each week.
“The number of insurgents taken off the field of battle because of your exploitation successes is staggering,” said Langowski.
He reminded those in attendance that success and freedom comes with a price and acknowledged those Paladin service members who made the ultimate sacrifice this past year.
“I am incredibly proud of each and every one of you, and I thank you for the life saving contributions that you selflessly contributed each and every day,” Langowski continued. “Now, as CJTF Paladin is an enduring task force, a new chapter begins with the 71st EOD Group out of Fort Carson, Colo. It is now your turn to add to the history, lineage and honors that are represented by your colors unfurled before us.”
During the last 12 months the TF Paladin teams responded to 17,858 explosives events, conducted 2,156 post-blast analyses of IED events and supported 3,170 route clearance patrols.
U.S. Army Col. Leo Bradley of Mount Carmel, Pa., 71st Ord. Grp. commander, concluded the ceremony with his thoughts on assuming command of TF Paladin.
“[Col. Langowski], you lead a great organization who has done an absolutely amazing job here,” said Bradley. “The name Paladin comes from the knights of Charlemagne, an old and prestigious name. And as the knights of old, we seek to enable the Paladin motto: 'protect the innocent; execute justice.' Before you stand the new Paladins, men and women trained and ready for this mission to protect the innocent and execute justice; a mission I have no doubt will be accomplished with distinction and valor.”