EOD unit tight-lipped about mission to provide safety worldwide

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78 ABW/PA
In a world where IED, an acronym for Improvised Explosive Device, was recently added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, few could argue explosive devices have found their way into the public eye.

However, being in the public eye isn't a blessing for members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community. Members of the 116th EOD flight here agree talking about their job has always been a passion, but as the war on terror continues members of their community are becoming more tight-lipped about their job.

"We can't go into a lot of detail about what we do because we might get hurt or someone we know might," said Tech. Sgt. Greg Stephens, an EOD technician.

Master Sgt. John Bell, 116th EOD flight chief, said because of the war on terror, EOD craftsman can't afford to give out any information that might help terrorists devise more successful attacks here or abroad.

"Due to the nature of the world today, we are really restricted in what we can talk about," Sergeant Bell said.

Members of the team say it is a matter of safety and no member of the EOD community wants to be responsible for information leaking about the procedures or protocols that could result in the injury of or the loss of one of their fellow EOD craftsman, fellow servicemen or innocent civilians.

The threat to EOD craftsman around the world as they attempt to disrupt or dispose of explosive ordnance, recently hit home for members of the flight when a member of their community who they have worked with in the past was struck by an IED just a few weeks ago.

The Robins team agreed that the tight knit EOD community rallied around him from near and far to help ensure he arrived home safely and was never alone during his travels. Members of the EOD community stood with him 24 hours a day and escorted him throughout his journey back to the U.S.

Sergeant Bell said members of the EOD community who are injured are killed in action are never without an EOD escort.

The safety of the EOD craftsman is always a top priority so ensuring every effort and tool available is utilized to help keep the EOD craftsman out of harm's way is paramount.

One of the tools, a robot the 116th EOD team uses, has gotten a lot of attention recently after it helped the Warner Robins Police Department end a standoff June 10.

The robot can be sent into dangerous situations and be used to assess the situation and in some cases resolve it by disarming or diffusing the explosive device.

"Its primary function is to disarm bombs and make our lives safer," Sergeant Stephens said. "If this thing gets damaged by an explosion, who cares? It's not someone's parent or spouse. We can always fix it."

The robot can function as the eyes and ears of the EOD team allowing them to see and hear what is happening inside.

"We can have our eyes on without having any one in harm's way," said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Fletcher, EOD craftsman.

The robot can even allow law enforcement officials to communicate with the individuals within the building.

"We can communicate with the subject and see what (he or she) is doing through our T.V.," Sergeant Stephens said. "Even if it is broken, we can still communicate and we can still adjust the cameras."

The robot can navigate stairs and other obstacles and has an arm that allows it to open doors to access other parts of a building.

"It can do almost anything a human can do," Sergeant Fletcher said.

The team said it is not uncommon for members of its flight to join with local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies to help secure situations where ordnance is suspected to be involved.

Supporting the local community is one of the many charges of the 116th EOD team. The team is responsible for 35 counties in the state of Georgia. The team, which arrived at Robins in 1999, is committed to helping anyone who needs its services.

Sergeant Fletcher said he takes comfort in "knowing that what we do prevents destruction of property and saves lives. We prevent the situations that could cause damage or loss physical harm."

The team agreed their job is about protecting lives and property, so being cautious when speaking about how they do their job is just another way they can continue protecting themselves, their fellow EOD craftsman, and anyone or anything that might be placed in danger by an explosive ordnance.