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There I Was...Another bad day survived

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Clay Gorham
  • 6th Civil Engineer Squadron
On my deployment to southern Afghanistan, I was part of a two man Explosive Ordnance Disposal team (EOD) tasked as a Helicopter Response Force (HRF) for British soldiers who encountered an improvised explosive device and needed EOD support. Because our area of responsibility covered almost the entire Helmand Province, we were required to be on the bird and air borne within an hour of receiving a request for support. Our most dramatic mission occurred on a hot morning in early June. A British dismounted maneuver element was struck by an IED and during their post blast sweep and investigation they discovered another IED very close by.

Because they did not have a British EOD team nearby, we were tasked to respond. Several hours later we arrived via CH-47 Chinook to the small Forward Operating Base (FOB). The FOB commander, a captain, gave us a quick briefing on the area and set us up with the patrol leader (PL) who would take us out to the cordoned off IED. Unfortunately, none of the roads near the FOB were suitable for any armored U.S. or ISAF vehicle, which meant we had to walk across roads and fields that we knew had IEDs, and in June at midday the temperature was in the 120s.

Four to five clicks in a normal setting is not very far, and that morning we made it to the site without incident. The soldiers had found a command wire IED with several 105 millimeter projectiles as its main charge. Fortunately for us, they had found and secured the firing point, making this about as safe of an IED call as is possible. After we neutralized the IED and all the remaining evidence collected we started our short walk back to the relative safety of the FOB.

We were about a click from the FOB when we came upon the obvious stacks of stone that the insurgents and locals use to mark roads that are not safe to travel. Because we had been outside the wire working for several hours and the soldiers almost double that, it was decided to push through with metal detectors (to clear a path) rather than conduct a deliberate clear of the road. This was in no way outside of the norm at the time. Several hundred meters later, a British ATV with a trailer drove up with another foot patrol to help carry all the gear the other two patrols and we had been carrying all day. Just as the patrol started moving again the British soldier about 10 feet in front of my team's position stepped on an IED. The blast killed the soldier instantly and wounding several others and knocked many of us off of our feet. Because of my proximity to the detonation, I received a concussion and could barely hear because of the intense ringing in my ears. My ears started to pop, like they would in an airplane, but I thought it sounded like machine gun fire. And as we are trained, I crawled towards the safety of nearby cover to return fire. The only problem being, I was concussed, confused and I didn't realize the popping sound was my ears recovering from the blast over pressure. After what felt much longer than it was, the dust cleared, and we regained composure. My team performed a hasty post blast to recover any evidence left from the IED. Since there was a collation member killed, the evidence collected is very important since it could be used to prosecute the IED maker. After what started out as a normal IED response that turned into a bad day, we ran back to the FOB. I once again felt fortunate as with all my other "bad days" to only have suffered minor injuries.