Across all branches of our military, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians risk their lives to protect others by rendering safe every type of ordnance from hand grenades, to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), to naval mines, to nuclear weapons, and more. These highly specialized EOD technicians perform their mission on land and at sea, as well as operating not only in theater abroad but also by partnering with civil authorities and lending their expertise to neutralize domestic threats.
The pressures of war and terrorism have taken their toll on all of our EOD forces, yet the call to service has been answered with an even stronger desire to serve. Whether at war or in peacetime, EOD technicians face death or serious injury on every call for assistance, yet they go forward with the knowledge that they are trained and equipped to face each task.
Despite the critical and brave missions that these warriors fulfill, our nation’s relatively small bomb disposal forces often don’t receive the credit they deserve for the risks they take to protect civilians and their fellow soldiers.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal was formed in reaction to a recently emerged threat, namely, unexploded bombs and mines. In 1941, the School of Civilian Defense was organized to train for bomb disposal at Chemical Warfare School, Edgewood Arsenal. Also in 1941, the United States Naval Mine Disposal School was established at Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C, and the first class of that school graduated the same year. The Army and the Navy also both formally decided to organize “Bomb Disposal”, the forerunner of Explosive Ordnance Disposal, in December 1941 following the attack on Peal Harbor.
In the early years, most of the technicians deployed with nothing more than courage, a hammer, a chisel, and a spanner wrench. They had to learn and improvise many render safe procedures using only their collective knowledge, instinct, and the lessons learned from their sometimes fallen brethren. Since those early days, EOD has assumed many new missions and roles, as well as becoming increasingly technologically advanced and precise.
With increased concerns of terrorism in the wake of recent attacks, many are realizing that the nature of attacks against U.S. forces or on U.S. soil have fundamentally changed. Enemies attempting to harm our nation will increasingly turn to lone-wolf tactics, which very well may include explosive devices that our bomb technicians will be counted on to render safe.
The unofficial motto of EOD, “Initial Success or Total Failure”, is not taken lightly by members in the field. It reflects their training, attitude, and drive to be the absolute best at what they do, while still knowingly accepting both the dangers and the fate that may await them.