EOD Techs Host Memorial 5k to Honor Fallen
More than 60 Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) members participated in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Memorial five kilometer run, Saturday, on base's running trail.
The annual event honors U.S. Armed Forces EOD technicians around the world who have lost their lives while serving their country.
"This run symbolizes the unselfish and unyielding dedication to one another that we all share as service members," said U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Eric Allen, a participant. "It's extremely important to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our nation."
Local EOD technicians U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Donofrio, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Despot, and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dave Lyman, ran the 3.1-mile course while wearing bomb disposal suits that weigh approximately 85 pounds each.
"You don’t honor someone by doing something easy - you do something hard to recognize their sacrifice," said Lyman. "Wearing the suit was one way to do that, even if it doesn't really come close to their hardship."
News of injured or killed EOD technicians travels fast in their close-knit world, said Donofrio.
"We're a very small career field," he said. "There's six degrees of separation between us, so we all know someone who knows someone else who was hurt."
According to information from the EOD Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization that tracks the history and accomplishments of these technicians, 15 Army, Air Force and Marine Corps experts have lost their lives since September 2010.
"We work hard to make sure that doesn't happen to anybody else," said Lyman. "We learn from every situation - every one of our publications is written in blood."
Donofrio said that the EOD technician's unflappable reserve, even when routinely dealing with an object that serves no other purpose than to kill or maim, is the direct result of their extensive training.
"We go through so much training - we always try to make ourselves better," said Donofrio. "When we're working, we go into a different mode and we don't dwell on what could happen."
As if dealing with deadly explosives were not enough, EOD technicians have other on-the-job hazards to take into consideration. "Some of us have bounties on our head," said Donofrio. "So do some of the bomb dogs."
EOD technicians deployed in support of CJTF – HOA are involved in a variety of missions across the African continent, which include humanitarian de-mining, train-the-trainer partnerships, anti-terrorism force protection and regional EOD response.
"There’s a lot of collaboration here," said Donofrio. "We're here trying to make an unsafe situation safer. When we come across something dangerous we take comfort in the fact that we can make it go away."
Other participants in the run included a military working bomb detector dog team, their handlers, as well as 12 Marines assigned to the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 who ran the five km. in squad formation while wearing body armor and gas masks.
"The names of those who have been killed are placed on the EOD Memorial wall at Eglin Air Force Base, [Fla.]," said Lyman. He added that no U.S. Navy EOD technicians have been added this year. For more information on the history of EOD and the Memorial wall, visit eodmemorial.org.