CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Operational tempo in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, continues at a high pace. Service members continue to conduct foot patrols, mounted patrols, resupply convoys and construction projects on a daily basis. Throughout these missions, the number one hostile threat to coalition forces continues to be improvised explosive devices.
Because of the insurgents’ use of these homemade explosives throughout the battle space, explosive ordnance disposal technicians with 2nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) are actively engaged each day working to neutralize and eliminate these threats.
The EOD Co. is made up of more than 100 Marines and sailors. While the majority of these service members are EOD technicians spread throughout Helmand Province, 16 service members are attached to the company to perform a supporting role. These 16 Marines and sailors ensure the company continues to accomplish their mission.
“We have communication Marines, supply Marines, a motor transport Marine, a welder, Corpsmen, P3 (preservation, packaging and packing) Marines and bulk fuel Marines,” said Master Sgt. Shane Langerud, EOD staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, 2nd EOD Co. “These Marines are doing a little bit of everything. They are filling that ‘any Marine role’ and doing a phenomenal job. The EOD company commander and I couldn’t be more proud of them and what they’ve accomplished throughout this deployment.”
While the support Marines and sailors do spend some time working in their primary military occupational specialty while deployed with EOD Co., the service members are often completing tasks outside of their areas of expertise.
“Most of these Marines are working outside their MOS,” said Gunnery Sgt. George Carter, the company gunnery sergeant for 2nd EOD Co. “We have a bulk fuel Marine who also serves as the administration chief; another bulk fuel Marine is our intelligence chief. We have a P3 Marine who manages the upkeep, accountability and maintenance on all of the EOD robotics.”
In addition to filling these new roles, the support Marines and sailors have also completed several improvements to the EOD compound that will allow service members to be better trained. The support personnel have built a 63,000 square foot IED training lane, realistic Afghan compounds for mission training, a classroom to facilitate counter IED classes, and even an outdoor museum, which shows the different types of unexploded ordnance and IEDs that have been found throughout Afghanistan.
“Through the blood, sweat and tears of the support Marines we have been able to build a comprehensive training lane for not only EOD personnel, but also the infantry battalions and our [International Security Assistance Force] and NATO partners,” Langerud said. “In conjunction with the regular daily duties of supporting our [EOD] teams spread throughout Helmand Province, the combined staff at the company has moved more than 20,000 cubic yards of dirt, filled more than 300 HESCO, and has hand mixed and filled more than 220 molds containing more than 880 cubic feet of cement and dirt for our training lane. We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish 80 percent of what we have done without the support personnel.”
Besides constructing areas for education and training, the company’s support personnel have also successfully retrograded approximately $10 million worth of gear and equipment since arriving in Afghanistan in October, said Langerud.
“We came here and took a very broad skill set of young personnel in the military and [they] were able to successfully become an excellent support element for the EOD Company,” Carter said. “Every one of these Marines and sailors has grown professionally.”
Sgt. Cerina Mingle, the supply chief for EOD Co., says she is happy she volunteered to deploy with the company.
“It’s been an eye opening experience,” said Mingle, who is completing her first deployment. “It’s been great, and I am truly glad I have gotten this experience.”
Cpl. Joshua Smith, radio chief for 2nd EOD Co., is responsible for all of the company’s radios and communications gear – a job typically held by a staff noncommissioned officer.
“I think it has been a very successful deployment,” Smith said. “It’s been a great opportunity for me. The command has really taken care of [the support personnel]. I think the command has a lot of trust in us.”
Second EOD Co. is wrapping up their 7-month deployment and will soon return back to Camp Lejeune, but they will leave Afghanistan knowing they have completed their mission and set up future EOD companies long-term for success.
“This compound is our home, and we all have a lot of pride in what we’ve accomplished throughout the deployment,” Langerud said. “The support personnel have developed their own legacy here in Afghanistan, and their efforts have and will continue to benefit the entire [Regional Command] Southwest area of responsibility.”