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NEWS | Nov. 22, 2011

EOD: Dangerous career celebrates safety

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston Explosive Ordnance Disposal conducted the third annual EOD Safety Day Nov. 18 at JB Charleston - Air Base.

"Explosive Ordnance Disposal Safety Day gives EOD technicians an opportunity to reflect on previous experiences and events that relate to EOD safety," said Staff Sgt Justin Voorhees, Explosive Ordnance Disposal craftsman. "This event has helped us develop a better understanding of our job."

Events included a 10 kilometer Ruck March, safety briefings and a barbeque that was open to EOD specialists and their families.

"The event was very beneficial," said Airman 1st Class Amber Taft, Explosive Ordnance Disposal apprentice. "We've been able to discuss ways to improve our work methods while deployed, as well as learn from horrible past events that went wrong. This way, we're prepared for every situation that may occur."

Taft arrived at JB Charleston less than two weeks prior to EOD Safety Day. It is her first duty station.

"We've talked a lot about explosive safety and trauma that can happen during combat," said Taft. "It's good information for me, because I haven't been deployed yet."

Voorhees recently returned from a deployment in Iraq.

"I have had plenty of close calls," said Voorhees. "I've nearly detonated booby-trapped devices before and I've been in vehicles that have blown up from Improvised Explosive Devices. I walk away from those experiences with a sense of pride, though. Diffusing bombs saves the lives of one to potentially many more people. That's why I do this job."

According to the Department of Defense, IEDs accounted for 40 percent of U.S. fatalities in 2009 and IED use has risen 400 percent in the past three years. EOD specialists have anticipated this rising trend and factor it into the nature of their constantly evolving career.

"There is always something new to learn," said Taft. "Not one aspect of my job stays the same."

Voorhees has had to change how he approaches a bomb site many times in his nine years of Air Force service. However, he gets the same feeling every time he gets called to one.

"When I get called to an IED site, my adrenaline always starts pumping," said Voorhees. "The key is staying on your toes and constantly training and retraining. If you're always ready, you won't have a reason to be nervous."

Voorhees along with the rest of the JB Charleston EOD flight have helped Taft "get ready" and transition into the operational Air Force.

"The senior leadership has been very helpful in getting me prepared for my future," said Taft. "They are all on top of their game and know their stuff very well."

"The need for EOD specialists has been critical in current contingencies," said Voorhees. "IEDs are terrorist's weapon of choice. Our current war is unlike any other. The military landscape is always changing."

With change comes new challenges and demands for warriors with special skill sets. The courage and patience of bomb disposal specialists are critical to the safety of our men and women abroad and our mission.

The safety of EOD specialists is equally critical. EOD Safety Day is a way to ensure they stay ready and safe.