News: Warhammers neutralize Afghan bombs
Story by 1st Lt. Henry Chan
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – After three months, 90 missions, 40 indirectly fired rockets and projectiles cleared, and 280 pieces of evidence processed to identify bomb makers, the 702nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company secures it’s foothold in eastern Afghanistan.
The soldiers work under Combined Joint Task Force – Paladin, towards their motto, “defeat the device, attack the network and train the force.”
The company operates 11 EOD teams at multiple locations in support of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, also known as Task Force Bayonet.
These EOD soldiers provide EOD support to coalition force bases, and maintains what the military calls “freedom of maneuver” throughout Wardak and Logar Provinces. “Freedom of maneuver” means that troops are more liberal to conduct their missions without restriction from hostile forces.
Improvised bombs have been a reoccurring theme through Operation Enduring Freedom, and the 702nd is an intricate part of accomplishing that mission.
While other soldiers were celebrating Oktoberfest in Bavaria, the 44-soldier unit and their Families prepared for departure from their home unit, the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion “Warhammers,” at Grafenwoehr, Germany.
Capt. Andrew Word, native of Houston, is a platoon leader in the bomb disposal company. “We had been training for over 12 months before we stepped on that plane,” said Word, “and still, we push our techs to train whenever we have down time.”
Training did not stop with the deployment. Soldiers continue to raise their analytical and skill proficiency with bomb disposal. When the unit is not busy with missions, noncommissioned officers constantly mentor and challenge Soldiers with different puzzles to solve.
The EOD puzzles are mock bombs that the more experienced NCOs construct to mentor and challenge other technicians. EOD Soldiers and NCOs will spend hours out of the day in using different techniques and tools to defeat the devices.
Spc. Robert Neidner is a new EOD tech from Idaho Falls, Idaho, with nine months in the unit, on his first deployment. As the “new guy” on the team, he constantly tries to hone his skill with bomb disposal to meet the high expectations that his leadership sets for him.
“A lot of the guys have been really good in helping (me) into the unit,” Neidner said, “compared to basic (training) and advanced individual training, my time (in the 702nd) has been mind blowing, there is still a lot to learn.”
The deployment has also opened opportunities for the company to work with other military branches and foreign troops.
The 702nd is works with and is responsible for the Czech EOD, shares a compound and partners on missions here at FOB Shank.
“Most of my role here is to integrate EOD assets into the larger mission ( to “defeat the device, attack the network and train the force”), and to control our U.S. EOD teams and Czech (EOD) teams,” said the 702nd Company Commander Capt. Erik Wood, “that role is increasingly in support of Afghan National Security Forces, the 702nd and (our predecessor) have (extensively) trained Afghan EOD personnel, and they are actively engaged in defeating the IED threat in Logar and Wardak provinces.”
The company’s 2nd platoon at Forward Operating Base Airborne has extensively trained Afghan police and National Directorate of Security EOD Teams as part of the transfer of security operations to the Afghan authorities.
Recently, the EOD soldiers started familiarization training with the local explosive detection dog teams. EOD teams often request the presence of dogs in order to verify threats.
“Their accuracy is spot on, these dogs save us precious time with our jobs (in finding bombs),” said Word.
Bomb disposal is a stressful job. EOD Families and soldiers have a different ways of dealing with the stress. Most soldiers find that the camaraderie helps unit members focus on the job.
For veteran explosive ordnance disposal technician, Sgt. 1st Class Marvin DeWitt, Afghanistan is one of the three countries that he has disarmed bombs in his six year career. “We’re a family, 100 percent. We have our quarrels like brothers, but at the end of the day, we are a family and we will stick together,” said DeWitt, “that’s the best thing about being in a small and specialized community like us. All around the world, we take care of each other. I’ve got friends who are (EOD) techs in the Australian Army, British Army and Irish Army. All it takes is a phone call and we’ll drive hours with a gallon of gas to bail out (a friend in need).”
Wood said, “the Family Readiness Group has been really helpful. All platoons participate in various ‘adopt’ programs, we receive an amazing amount of support from the FRG and Soldier sponsor programs. I’m surprised how much (support) we get from elementary schools and communities.”
The 702nd EOD continues to serve coalition forces with bomb disposal support in Afghanistan. As many other soldiers return to their living quarters in Regional Command-East, 702nd EOD teams continue stand by for their next mission.