Remembering the Dead: New Names for a Wall That Keeps Growing- The Largest Group of EOD Techs killed in one year
“Navy E.O.D. guys are not the chest thumpers that some special ops guys are, because you can’t mad dog a piece of ordnance”
New York Times At War blog May 4, 2012
Early this Saturday morning in the Florida Panhandle, in keeping with a schedule set in motion decades ago, a crowd will gather around a memorial for a solemn roll call – the names of a specialized group of American service members, 289 in all, who have died in the line of duty since 1942.
Each name belongs to a community within the military – explosive ordnance disposal, or E.O.D. — that has undergone a public and professional transformation in the last decade, a period when improvised bombs have become the primary weapon against the West and Western troops.
Insider sentiment and casualty statistics align on this point. As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq exposed a generation of troops to the particular perils associated with makeshift bombs, the E.O.D. techs who specialize in finding and destroying hidden bombs have become among the preeminent and most appreciated specialists in the military. Once seen primarily as support troops, they have become a multiservice corps of experts regarded by fellow service members as shouldering risks to keep others alive, and to keep a fearsome weapon often at bay.
They have paid for this place. The ceremony to be held at Eglin Air Force Base on Saturday, organized by the Navy’s E.O.D school with the help of the nonprofit E.O.D. Memorial Foundation, will mark another annual commemoration of fallen E.O.D techs, with a emphasis on those killed in the last year.
A message will be obvious as the roll call proceeds. During a year when one long war appeared to be winding down, with the end of American combat operations in Iraq, and the beginning of the Pentagon’s drawdown in Afghanistan, service in the field for E.O.D. techs remained as dangerous as ever. The list of the dead says as much. Of the 289 names that will be read on Saturday, 177 died from 1942 to 2001. In the 11 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, 112 more E.O.D. techs have died – a pace exceeding the rate at which they were killed in prior decades.
And after the unveiling of bronze name plates on the wall Saturday morning, 18 of the names will be new. They form the largest group of American E.O.D. techs ever to die in a 12-month period, the foundation’s officials said, making them a stark indicator of the role that E.O.D. has assumed at the front of modern American war.
Even then the list is incomplete, and not just because it does not include the large number of those wounded. Since the list was finalized and the plaques were made for this weekend’s event, still more E.O.D. techs have been killed, including a Navy officer, Lt. Christopher E. Mosko, 28, who died on April 26 in Afghanistan, the victim of a hidden improvised bomb.
And so as hundreds of past and present E.O.D techs and their families gather in Florida this week, others are clustering in grief and remembrance for Lieutenant Mosko, whose remains arrived in Dover Air Force Base in Delaware this week, and who will be buried next week in San Diego.
Lieutenant Mosko died in Ghazni Province when the vehicle he was traveling in struck a bomb. Two other soldiers died with him.
The eighteen EOD Techs who will be added to the wall this year
1. Staff Sgt. Chauncy R. Mays
2. Staff Sgt. Eric S. Trueblood
3. Spc. Christopher G. Stark
4. Staff Sgt. Mark C. Wells
5. Gunnery Sgt. Ralph E. Pate
6. Tech Sgt. Daniel L. Douville
7. Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski
8. Staff Sgt. Michael J. Garcia
9. Staff Sgt. David P. Day
10. Staff Sgt. Kristoffer M. Solesbee
12. Sgt. Daniel J. Patron
13. Staff Sgt. Nicholas A. Sprovtsoff
14. Chief Petty Officer Nicholas H. Null
15. Senior Chief Petty Officer Kraig M. Vickers
16. Petty Officer First Class Chad R. Regelin
17. Airman First Class Matthew R. Seidler
18. Tech Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz
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