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    Navy EOD technician stays out of her own way in Afghanistan

    Navy EOD technician stays out of her own way in Afghanistan

    Photo By 94th Airlift Wing | Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Petty Officer Nichole Robinette...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Richard Wolff 

    ISAF Regional Command North

    CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan – The life of an explosive ordnance disposal technician is not your everyday average job in the U.S. Navy. One day you might be disarming an IED, while the next you might be protecting the Vice President of the United States. It’s a job that is not for everyone and certainly not for those who expect to stay out of harm’s way most of the time.

    So who would want this type of job? Many would assume they are adrenaline junkies who thrive on danger. Movies and TV shows glamorize EOD technicians as thrill seekers. Those here in Afghanistan will tell you a much different story. They are calm, dedicated, selfless, caring military personnel looking to help their comrades in arms and any civilians within their area of operation. Many never see an EOD Technician performing their duties. It’s much too dangerous to be that close.

    Back in 2006, Petty Officer 1st Class Petty Officer Nichole Robinette, a native of St. Paul, Minn., joined the Navy with one thing in mind, becoming an EOD technician. “Feeling a sense of duty to serve” she completed basic training and went on to become an operations specialist, but never lost track of her goal. In a field dominated by men, EOD training is rigorous, demanding both mentally and physically, Robinette was not dissuaded.

    After serving a couple of years at sea, she was approved for the training. It was a day Robinette had been waiting for.

    “I had my eyes set on the EOD program ever since I joined the Navy. You had to have a source rating back then so I chose to become an operations specialist. I served a tour on the USS Ronald Reagan, picked up E-5 and awaited orders for Dive School at that point.”

    To become an EOD technician, a sailor must complete 2 weeks of Dive Prep class, almost 3 months of Dive School, 11 months of EOD School, then complete Jump School and Tactical Training. The whole process takes nearly 2 years.

    Robinette did not choose the EOD program to prove something about being a woman in a traditionally man’s role, she said it was just a job she was wanting to do that could utilize and challenge all of her abilities and once she set her mind on doing it, nothing was going to stop her.

    “EOD school was really demanding mentally. I knew it was going to be difficult, especially watching other classmates around me fall out of training. I had to be confident I could complete it.” Robinette added, “I can’t help but to push myself. If there are a bunch of guys ahead of me that are stronger than me, faster than me, that’s fine, it’s to be expected. I grew up playing ice hockey and snowboarding. I have 3 brothers so I grew up around guys. So for me, it’s not that I’m trying to prove I’m better than a boy, I don’t have hang-ups like that. You’re the biggest thing that gets in your own way, so I just said I’m going to get out of my own way, and if this is where I’m supposed to be, then God willing, I’ll get through this.”

    In a combat zone such as Afghanistan, these sailors are everyone’s friend, regardless of nationality. EOD Technicians are the ones to call in when an explosive threat is found, and they quickly and fearlessly respond to eliminate that danger. They are heroes to the multinational service member on the ground. Without them, freedom of movement and operations are not as effective or as successful, not to mention any time spent outside the wire would be much deadlier.

    Northern Afghanistan is a success story in terms of the transition process from coalition to Afghan government control, but that does not mean the threat is completely gone. It’s still dangerous in certain parts of the country.

    “Some guys I went to school with got hurt while they were out here. They were part of other teams on different missions. That stuff hits you really hard, you think, ‘That could have been me.’ It’s hard to not be glad that it wasn’t you, but you know that you’re that close to the threat.”

    An avid surfer and gym rat, Robinette likes to stay in shape and be in good physical condition. But what gets her through her deployment is something much different.

    “I do yoga and meditate a lot. I even modified a wall into a window in our gazebo at my camp so I could watch the sunrise while I meditated in the mornings.”

    She considers herself an artsy person and likes to write and read poetry. She has completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Art and Management with a minor in Japanese Language. Her faith also drives her.

    “I grew up Catholic. Going to church and always looking to the Bible. That’s been really huge for me the past few years. I think my faith has strengthened and enabled me, especially being on a ship and now in a combat zone. Fortunately, the Navy has always facilitated my faith.”

    “I worked at Camp Spann (part of Regional Command North) in Afghanistan the whole time. We had six EOD teams in the North that operated in different provinces. I mainly did partnership missions with the Afghan National Army. Being so close to the only Afghan EOD school at Camp Shaheen, it was easy to get involved with them,” said Robinette.

    This deployment brought a new set of challenges for Robinette. Working with and training a newly-formed group of Afghan National Army EOD Technicians while also working alongside military members from many NATO countries was rewarding and unique for her.

    “I think our team as a whole accomplished a lot. Myself, I didn’t get any improvised explosive device calls in my area, but I did do some demolition of unexploded ordnance found locally. We supported all of our teams in the North by providing them with the tools they needed to get the job done.”

    A big misconception many female service members have when deploying to Afghanistan concern the “lesser” role of women over the years under Taliban rule that still influence certain aspects of the country’s culture. Robinette did not see any bias towards her while training and working alongside the Afghan military.

    “They all (The Afghan soldiers) treated me the exact same way they treated the other guys on our team. I didn’t know if I would offend them by not having my head covered up. But they were fine with me. Maybe I opened their eyes about the roles women can take on in the military.”

    With her deployment just about complete, Robinette heads back to San Diego, Calif.,to EOD Mobile Unit 1 to complete any qualifications or advanced training she still needs. Ever since 9/11, EOD units are on the front lines all around the world participating in many operations. Robinette does not know where she may end up down the road, but rest assured she will get out of her own way to get the job done.



    Date Taken: 01.26.2012
    Date Posted: 01.26.2012 09:25
    Story ID: 82855
    Location: MAZAR-E-SHARIF, AF 

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