Patrolling with EOD
PHOTO: Spc. William Rohler and Spc. Jacob Stewart, explosive ordnance disposal technicians with 787th EOD Company, wait for the dust to clear after finding and detonating an improvised explosive device June 20, 2012 in southern Afghanistan.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan – Recent Pentagon reports have shown U.S.-led troop deaths from improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan are dropping sharply even though the numbers of IEDs planted by insurgents are near record levels.
“A few days ago we received word from a local villager that the Taliban have been coming by his house and placing IEDs in the roads, and that he knew the location of two of them and there could possibly be more,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Hoff an explosive ordnance disposal technician with 787th Explosive Ordinance Disposal Company, Combined Taskforce Arrowhead explained. Hoff has been here in the area of Talukan, Afghanistan for only two weeks and already in the past two days has found, disarmed and disposed of 10 improvised explosive devices.
On June 20, 2012 Hoff and his team, Spc. William Rohler and Spc. Jacob Stewart both explosive ordnance disposal technicians with 787th EOD Company teamed up with soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and a small group of Afghan National Civil Order Police to conduct a foot patrol to speak with the villager and find and dispose of the IEDs.
Before the patrol could make its way to the local villager’s house they came upon the first IED.
A soldier with 3rd Platoon at the front of the patrol scouting the area with Hoff using metal detectors came across the IED and then it was time for EOD to take action.
Rohler and Stewart dropped their packs and began to get supplies needed to uncover and retrieve the device, while the rest of the patrol set up security for any other possible threats.
Hoff and his team were able to disarm the IED, thus rendering it safe from being detonated by the enemy.
“Once we did that I went down and confirmed it was disarmed and collected the pressure plate so we could send it off to a lab to have fingerprints and biometrics tests ran on it to try and figure out who is emplacing the IEDs,” explained Hoff.
This turned out to be the case for both IEDs found this day, which were both placed in the road before making it up to where the villager lived.
“Both IEDs that were discovered were no more than 30 meters apart and set in the known foot path of the soldier’s patrols with the pressure plate connected to a plastic jug which was filled with homemade explosives,” said Hoff. “When a person walks by and steps on the pressure plate it completes a circuit and detonates the explosive.”
IEDs have become one of the main threats here in Afghanistan, and the insurgents that are putting them out there are getting smarter with how they are making them and where they are being placed.
“We blew the main charges on both IEDs where they were, which is called ‘BIP’ blow in place, because it’s the safest way to go about doing it,” explained Hoff.
Once the IED has been taken care of, the EOD team makes their way down to the blast site to conduct post-blast inspection to confirm it is safe for the rest of the patrol to push forward.
“It’s actually a relief once we find it so I know where it’s at, the most nerve-racking part is actually up there searching and making sure that you don’t miss anything,” said Hoff.
No other IEDs were found this day but each bomb that is found is not only good for the soldiers who are out patrolling those streets everyday but also for the locals, their children and livestock who also walk those same paths.
“It’s not just my life on the line it’s the guys behind me on the patrol,” Hoff said.