EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The students and instructors of the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal gathered briefly without pomp and circumstance to mark the 75th anniversary of the creation of the explosive ordnance combat force here Aug. 22.
The EOD heritage dates back to World War II. Special bomb disposal units were formed to protect against the increased rate of unexploded ordnance and to deal with the bomb fuse technology used by the enemy at that time. Following the war, bomb disposal technicians cleared unexploded ordnance overseas and trained host nations how to conduct these operations. These operations established the need for this special skill set during peace time as well.
For the NAVSCOLEOD members, this day was an opportunity to pause and reflect on their heritage and the sacrifices of those who came before them.
“It is engrained from day one of training, we will never disgrace the EOD warriors of the past and will uphold the honor and memory both on and off the battlefield,” said Navy Capt. Charles Andrews, the NAVSCOLEOD’s commanding officer. “In this day and age the term warrior is often overused or applied to individuals who don’t meet the definition. I am proud to say in the tight-knit EOD community, our ranks are full of true warriors.”
On Aug. 22, 1941, the Navy graduated their first class of mine disposal Sailors. Since these historic and simple beginnings the EOD community continues to grow and develop across the Department of Defense. All branches now have EOD technicians.
“It’s a proud history. When the students come out everyone has the same initial EOD badge. You don’t find that in any other specialty. We’re the only ones,” said Andrews. “In joint environments, this is crucial. We all know there’s a good chance we’ll be fighting together at some point. It’s reassuring to know everyone has the same training.”
According to Andrews, the training received here is more difficult than completing an undergraduate degree. Along with academic pressures, students must demonstrate they can apply basic EOD applications under time constraints and the scrutiny of their instructors.
“This is a profession that pushes you to figure out who you are, and pushes you to the level of near perfection. If you’re not the best at what you do, you could get yourself and others killed,” said Seaman Dylan Smith, a NAVSCOLEOD student.
The shared experience of the physically and mentally grueling school creates a strong bond among the students that will operate in the small community, said Andrews.
“We’ve been together every day, all day long for the last six to seven months. We spend so much time together studying, so you get close with a lot of guys,” said Smith. “It’s nice to be able to build that bond. It’s also encouraging to know when you are done here, these guys will be doing your job too. You know these are good people who’ll have your back when you’re down on an ordnance or responding to a call.”
Article by Ilka Cole, Team Eglin Public Affairs
Photo: Explosive ordnance disposal then and now. (Graphic/Samuel King Jr.)