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Deployed EOD Airmen participate in safety day

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Tech. Sgt. Chip Fudala, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team leader, packs C4 explosives prior to a controlled detonation Nov. 11, 2009. The EOD's primary mission is to respond to indirect fire attacks on JBB and dispose of unexploded ordnance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Tech. Sgt. Chip Fudala, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team leader, packs C4 explosives prior to a controlled detonation Nov. 11, 2009. The EOD's primary mission is to respond to indirect fire attacks on JBB and dispose of unexploded ordnance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Tech. Sgt. Chip Fudala, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team leader, packs down primers between C4 explosives prior to a controlled detonation Nov. 11, 2009. The EOD's primary mission is to dispose of unused and unexploded ordnance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Tech. Sgt. Chip Fudala, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team leader, packs down primers between C4 explosives prior to a controlled detonation Nov. 11, 2009. The EOD's primary mission is to dispose of unused and unexploded ordnance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Members of the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team conduct a controlled detonation Nov. 11, 2009. The EOD's primary mission is to dispose of unused and unexploded ordnance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Members of the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team conduct a controlled detonation Nov. 11, 2009. The EOD's primary mission is to dispose of unused and unexploded ordnance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- The 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight participated in the first in-theater Air Force EOD Safety Day Nov. 13, 2009.

"It's important to have this safety day held here in-theater, since we're already in the mindset of operating in the deployed environment," said Master Sgt. William Sistler, 332nd EOD flight chief.

Since 2005, the Air Force EOD career field experienced 10 deaths and eight serious injuries. Fifty-four EOD Airmen have also received at least one Purple Heart Medal.

Aimed to help prevent future loss of life and limb, the major command-wide event focused on compliance with standard operating procedures and examined the interests of the EOD career field.

"Our civil engineer EOD Airmen continue to conduct operations in a dynamic and ever-changing combat environment," said Lt. Gen. Loren Reno, Air Force deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations and mission support, who proposed implementing the day in deployed locations. "The toll on the EOD field has been significant."

The day kicked off with speaking events concentrating on the challenges frequently associated with the EOD career field.

Maj. David Linkh, 332nd Expeditionary Aerospace Medicine Squadron traumatic brain injury clinic director, spoke to the Airmen about common physical injuries and mental health concerns.

"There are multiple types of deployment stress (faced by EOD Airmen), with adjustment stress being the most common," said Major Linkh. "Right now, these deployments may initiate anxiety when routine operations must coincide with maintaining a constant state of readiness."

Also, a representative from the chapel spoke to the group regarding the emotional and family difficulties faced in their occupation.

The group then participated in an open-forum discussion with members of 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing leadership. The Airmen discussed EOD culture and their various downrange responsibilities.

"Like most emergency management personnel or emergency responders, our job is to come out here and make sure that the area is safe for the rest of the base to operate," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Chamberlain, deployed from Vandenberg as NCO in charge of the flight. "We get a lot of (unexploded ordnance on JBB). So, we go out and either blow it up on spot or move it. We make it safe so other people can move around and continue with their job."

The eight-member EOD flight wrapped up their day by sharing personal accounts from the field before partaking in down-time activities.

"The guys deserve a day to reflect - hit the reset button - and make sure we are all doing the right things for ourselves," said Sergeant Sistler. "There are a lot of things that go on in this field that we may not talk about to anyone other than other EOD guys. Our experiences and memories about what we do may make interesting, exciting or sad 'stories' to those outside the field, but to us, we live with them every day. We are just regular people, who do a special, unique mission."