SANGIN, Afghanistan -- In the morning on a quiet rooftop aboard Forward Operating Base Jackson in the volatile Sangin District, Sgt. Joshua A. Shoda, 26, from Columbia City, Ind., raised his right hand to re-enlist for another four years in the Marine Corps, Sept. 18.
An hour later, that quiet was shattered as a barrage of insurgent attacks began just outside the small base nestled along the Helmand River Valley. Mortars exploded just a few meters away from the compound; British and American forces fired back with machinegun fire and precision missile attacks.
Shoda, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, listened to radio traffic from the inside of his Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, waiting for the fighting to die down so he could get the green light to go out on another mission. Before his reenlistment ceremony, he’d already been outside the protective compound for two days. But he’s used to going out on missions for days at a time, living out of his truck or simply taking a backpack along with the tools needed to diffuse an improvised explosive device, the deadliest threat to coalition troops.
"You basically gotta live out of your backpack like everybody else does, be able to fight like everybody else does, while at the same time be a response element," said Shoda, with 1st EOD Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
Since April, Shoda has been attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (Forward), traveling to different FOB's throughout Helmand province wherever the infantrymen are needed. A few weeks ago, the unit laid down roots in Sangin to provide security for the Taliban-infested area.
Shoda routinely goes out on missions with the grunts and responds to calls when an IED is found. In the time he’s been with 3/7, he’s found countless IED's including weapons caches and a bomb-making factory. He knows that each IED he diffuses, or prosecutes, is one fewer that can claim the life of a fellow Marine.
"What we do has an immediate impact on troops on the ground. Every IED we get rid of saves someone’s life," said Shoda, who’s been in the Marine Corps for nearly eight years.
Roadside bombs not only endanger the lives of infantrymen on foot patrols but also inhibit the freedom of movement for trucks moving in and out of the base to transport supplies and personnel.
"The areas that we’ve canvassed since we’ve been here have been laid with IED's beyond belief, and without an organic asset with which to defeat them, our freedom of movement is completely restricted," said 1st Lt. Julian Kilcullen, executive officer for Lima Company, 3/7, who estimates Shoda has found upwards of 150 IED's while with the unit.
Shoda’s dedication to his job has left an indelible mark on the Marines of 3/7.
"[Shoda] is just always willing to work," added Kilcullen, 24, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "He’s always more than willing to go out for days at a time with one of the platoons and provide them the capability to reduce on the spot. Aside from his proficiency, which is unquestionable, his willingness to work is a huge factor in facilitating operations."
As nightfall approaches and the fighting dies down, Shoda knows that soon he’ll be out again on another mission prosecuting more bombs. Despite the everyday dangers of the job, he looks forward to saving even more lives over the course of the next four years, throughout Sangin and beyond.