HADITHA, Iraq -- Even though the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment aren’t fighting insurgents face-to-face, they are still fighting an explosive enemy that lurks beneath them as they patrol the city.
Helping the Marines deal with this nearly invisible enemy is the four-man Explosive Ordnance Disposal team attached to the battalion.
The team here, made up of Marines and one Navy corpsman, comes from all different duty stations ranging from North Carolina to Japan. Their mission while with the battalion and other units in Iraq is to neutralize improvised explosive devices and to dispose of unexploded ordnance or weapons caches.
“The best part of our job is going out everyday and blowing up stuff that could’ve hurt Marines,” said Sgt. M., a Crestview, Fla., native and technician with the team who didn’t wish to use his full name.
The number one killer of Marines as they continue supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom is the insurgent’s use of roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices. That is why the team works long hours everyday to keep the battalion safe.
“We’re on call 24 hours a day,” commented Sgt. V., a Jacksonville, Fla., native and EOD technician. “Some days we are not too busy, but others we will be gone doing calls all day long.”
The team conducted more than 30 EOD missions so far since linking up with the battalion for Operation River Gate less than two weeks ago. To be prepared to handle this operations tempo and the different explosive setups used, the Marines spent six months learning how to become EOD technicians.
“We learn how to handle some very explosive stuff and not get hurt,” said Sgt. V. “Our job is pretty dangerous but we have all the training to keep ourselves safe.”
The technicians use the training as they respond to calls received for EOD support. Within minutes of each call, the Marines arrive at the site and assess the situation to determine whether the explosive will be destroyed in place or removed to be destroyed at a later time.
“We will use our explosives to blow it in place if it may be booby trapped,” commented Sgt. V. “We will take it and move it only if it is stable and if we want to gather some information about it for future finds.”
Having experience and enough training is the key to safety for the EOD Marines as the IED-making insurgents use many different techniques. Everything from artillery rounds to propane tanks filled with gunpowder is used to create an explosion big enough to hurt and kill Marines and innocent civilians.
“The insurgents use pretty much anything they can get their hands on to make IEDs,” said Master Sgt. N., the team leader. “Most of them are using long-distance cordless telephones to detonate the IEDs at the right time.”
Before becoming part of EOD, the Marines of the team spent at least four years in other job fields including embarkation, avionics and engineering. They joined their current job field as a bonus when they re-enlisted in the Marines.
“I joined EOD to get out of my previous job,” added Sgt. M. “I wanted to do more stuff on the ground rather than just sitting in an office and stacking boxes all day.”
Editor's Note: The names of the Marines were left out for security reasons.