News: EOD soldiers receive Purple Hearts
Story by Ed Drohan
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Four soldiers from the 731st Ordnance Company (EOD) were presented the Purple Heart during a ceremony at Bagram Air Field Dec. 7.
It’s the oldest award in the military, and one that most people don’t want since you have to be wounded or killed in combat to receive it.
Four Soldiers from the 731st Ordnance Company (EOD) were presented the Purple Heart during a ceremony here Dec. 7. Soldiers from the Fort Stewart, Ga., unit were stationed at various bases throughout Afghanistan during their nine-month deployment.
The recipients – Staff Sgt. Chad Babcock, Staff Sgt. David Finch, Spc. Robert Berry and Pfc. Scott Heck – are explosive ordnance disposal technicians who received their injuries during two different missions in June 2013. Babcock, Finch and Heck were members of the same team at Forward Operating Base Ghazni while Berry was wounded on a mission outside Forward Operating Base Shank near Gardez.
Berry was injured during a route clearance patrol June 5. While returning to their base, the lead vehicle in the convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED), disabling it.
“Then it turned into a shooting gallery,” Berry said. He was manning the gun turret in his armored vehicle when enemies of Afghanistan began firing at the convoy from 300 to 400 meters away. While returning fire, a rocket propelled grenade hit his vehicle, wounding him in the face.
To Berry, the fight “seemed like forever, but the report said it was only 10 minutes.” Another vehicle was able to push the disabled vehicle out of the way so everybody could get out of the kill zone, he said. Fortunately his wound was not serious and he was returned to duty soon afterward.
Babcock, Finch and Heck were all injured during the same mission on June 25. The EOD team responded to a call to help render safe an IED that had been discovered along a road. Unfortunately the device exploded, damaging their vehicle and injuring the three team members. All three received mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), while Heck also received shrapnel wounds to both legs.
Babcock and Finch were out for a week, while Heck was out for two weeks before returning to duty.
All four Soldiers will soon be back at Fort Stewart, having completed their deployment as part of Combined Joint Task Force Paladin.
The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president to those who are wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces. The award was originally established by George Washington on Aug. 7, 1782 as the Badge of Military Merit.