EOD Humor

July 29th, 2005

Brett sent a link to me not too long ago to a page called Mulvaney on Bomb Disposal which got me thinking about EOD humor. Some of the cartoons are a bit dated, they are from WW II after all, but most of the underlying humor remains the same. EOD humor tends towards the slightly dark or grim, I can’t imagine why…

Anyway, if you’re interested in what EOD guys laugh at this should give you a bit of an idea. You can also google “EOD Humor” and turn up a few hits.

Go ‘Terps!

July 18th, 2005

Communication is critical in my job. We need to be able to glean as much information from witnesses as possible to help deal with any sort of IED or UXO. This can be difficult, to say the least, when you can’t speak the local language (or languages as the case is in Afghanistan). While it would be great if we could be fluent in the language(s) of the area we are deployed to, it just isn’t practical for a variety of reasons. Enter the ‘terps. ‘Terps, which is short for interpreters, are local nationals who feel that they can best serve the interests of their country and fellows by bridging the language barrier for coalition forces and locals. I’ve got a lot of respect for these guys, not only are they fluent in multiple languages, but they risk life and limb just for doing their jobs. One of the best of the bunch is a guy called Sweet. All the ‘terps are hated by the Taliban and anti-Coalition forces, but Sweet has been targeted specifically for assassination by these guys. He’s survived something like five separate attempts on his life and has a substantial bounty on his head. Despite all this, he enthusiastically goes about his business; helping people like me help his countrymen to put this place back together. Every time I meet up with Sweet he greets me with a huge smile and energetic handshake, and he’s always ready to chat it up about his latest exploits or ask how you’ve been. Sweet was the same way with the EOD team before us, and I’m betting he’ll be the same with the team that comes after us; he’s just that kind of guy. Since I’ve been here I’ve experienced a good many things, not all of them nice, Sweet has definitely been one of the good ones though, and meeting him will probably end up one of the highlights of my deployment. Thank you Sweet!

Situation Normal: All Fouled Up (that would be the family friendly version).

July 2nd, 2005

The United States Air Force is an amazing institution. We can put a 2,ooolbs bomb within a meter or two of any point on earth, we can read license plates from orbit and we have planes that are all but invisible to radar. So why, when I went to the BX (Base Exchange) yesterday to buy my wife a birthday card, could I not find one? Granted, we’re in the middle of Afghanistan, but this base has been established for about three years now and has one of the nicest BXs in the entire AOR. It’s not even like there is a shortage of cards; the greeting card section takes up an entire isle. The problem is all but one of the birthday cards were under the heading “For Him” or “From Her to Him”, and there were a lot. Let me put this another way; according to the DoD, in 2004 15% of the DoD’s enlisted and officer corps (all services) were women, the percentage of deployed personnel that women make up is even smaller and yet there I stood for ten minutes trying to find one, just one birthday card that didn’t start “To my loving husband…” or “To the world’s best husband…” or have red lipstick “kisses” all over it. Eventually I found one. It was, perhaps, the stupidest card I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t subject my wife to it. I just don’t understand, maybe it has something to do with the old joke about “military intelligence” being an oxymoron, or maybe AAFES just doesn’t have a clue about it’s customer base in the deployed environment (all they’d have to do is look around). I don’t know, maybe I’m being unreasonable, maybe there’s a perfectly logical explanation for why a store with a 95% male customer base would sell, almost exclusively, greeting cards made for purchase by women (it wasn’t just the birthday cards either, I checked), but I really can’t think of one.

If it Weren’t for All the Terrorists…

June 19th, 2005

This country is beautiful. Last night I went out on a call into the mountains north of Kandahar to destroy some UXOs found by Coalition Forces. The helo dropped us in the mountains and we proceeded to go to work. After disposing of the UXOs we had some time before the helo came back so I got to admire the scenery, and boy was it some scenery. I’m not sure I can adequetly describe what it is like in the Afghanistan hinterland, you kind of have to be there, but if you’ve every been out west in the high desert it’s kind of like that only more rugged. The only thing more impressive then being in the terrain is flying over and around it. When the helicopter finally returned to retrieve us it was dark out and we had to use our NODs since we were opperating in blackout conditions. It was surreal. If the terrain was spectacular in the daylight, veiwing it through the green glow of NODs at 300 feet and 150 knots was…well, let’s just say it is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Not This Time.

June 17th, 2005

Well, it’s official, I didn’t get promoted this year. Having drowned my sorrows in a turkey sub last night (we have a Subway trailer on base) I got a look at the list of selectees today and I don’t feel so bad anymore. It was a short list consisting mostly of guys who have been SSgts a lot longer than me. Next week I get to see my scores and find out just how close I came. Depending on that information I may feel the need for more subs, we’ll see. More later.

David

UPDATE:
OK, now I really don’t feel so bad. I just got my scorecard (Amazing! The Air Force got something done a week early!) and despite my worst fears I was the #18 nonselectee, missed it by 12 points and change. That is actually more comforting to me than being the #1 nonselectee that missed it by 0.02 points. Anyway, I scored way better on my SKT (Job related) than I thought I would and not quite as well on the PFE (Air Force Trivial Pursuit). Anyway, more studying next year and I think I just might make it!

Must…Develop…Jedi…Mind Powers!

June 15th, 2005

Now, normally, I’m a fairly patient guy, but there are times when I get really impatient. Now is one of those times. Let me explain. Three months ago I took two tests. This is the third time I’ve taken these tests (not the exact same tests, but different versions). One is called the Skills Knowledge Test or SKT; it’s all about my job. The other is called the Promotion Fitness Exam, it’s all about general Air Force knowledge; kind of an Air Force Trivial pursuit except that if I answer enough questions properly instead of a pie piece I get promoted. The way it works is both of these test scores, along with some other factors like Enlisted Performance Reports (EPR), Time in Grade (how long I’ve been my current rank, Staff Sergeant or SSgt), Time in Service (how long I’ve been in the military), and certain decorations I’ve received are compiled into a composite score. My score is compared to all the other SSgts in Air Force EOD and a percentage (the top 21.01% this year) are promoted to the next grade, Technical Sergeant (TSgt) in my case. Well tomorrow the list of promotees is released. You’d think after waiting for three months another 24 hours or so wouldn’t bug me, but I find myself increasingly antsy. I just want the waiting to be over with, I want to know if I can jump for joy and expect another stripe or if I’m going to have to study more and test again next year. I hate not knowing. If I do get promoted I’ll have to wait probably five or six months before actually sewing on the stripe, but at least I’ll know! If I don’t, well it won’t be the end of the world and I can drown my sorrows in soda. Man, I really need to develop prescience; my stress level would be so much lower. Well, one way or the other, I’ll post tomorrow and let everybody know. I’m off to work on my Jedi mind powers…

That Would Have Been Nice to Know Before I Got on the Helicopter….

June 14th, 2005

Life in the digital age is great. There are so many ways to communicate information from just about any location on the planet. You’ve got cell phones, satellite phones, and radios. Even in the middle of a war I can set up my Swiftlink Satellite System and send emails from somewhere in the Afghan wilderness. It’s great. Now we just need to learn HOW to communicate and everything will be alright. Example: a few days ago I responded to an IED on Afghan Route 614 NNE of Kandahar. Now, when the call came in it was “we need EOD to respond to a roadside IED at these coordinates”. Great, no problem sounds like a standard IED next to, or perhaps buried just under the surface of an unimproved road (most of the roads in Afghanistan). So I grab my team and we grab our gear and fly out to the site on a Blackhawk helicopter. As we approached the site we’re able to see the U.S. forces that had called the item in…sitting on an asphalt road. Hmmm…OK, not a problem, the shoulder is dirt, could be buried there. The helo dropped us off without incident and I found the guy in charge, and asked him to describe the situation so I could figure out the best course of action. Well, of course the first words out of his mouth were “It’s buried about three feet in from the edge of the asphalt.” Under the asphalt. Of course. A key bit of information that would have allowed me to include a 15lbs. shaped charge, designed to penetrate things like concrete and asphalt in a hurry. Of course nobody mentioned anything in the mission brief so, instead of an operation taking maybe 20 minutes and involving a single detonation we ended up with a two hour ordeal involving three detonations, almost 40lbs. of explosive and resulting in a four foot wide by three foot deep crater in the road, and that was just to get down to the main charge of the IED (the 15lbs. shaped charge could have blasted a hole in the road significantly smaller and also detonated the IED all in one go). Fortunately the story has a happy ending, despite the best efforts of Murphy I was able to detonate the IED safely and reopen the road to traffic and nobody was injured. Well, I guess it’s happy for everybody but the guy that has to fill in that pot hole, kinda sucks for him. Sorry guy, I blame the lack of communications in the digital age.

Shocked by ZULU

June 12th, 2005

Just a note, I’ve just switched all times to ZULU (Greenwich Mean Time) since that’s what I’m operating on currently. Helps everybody here (various Coalition forces and the four U.S. service branches) stay on the same page. The local time here in Kandahar, if you’re interested, is Z+4:30. Why +4:30? Who knows, every other time zone I’ve been in is a nice round number like Z+9:00 (Okinawa), or Z-4:00 (current U.S. EST), I guess the Afghani people wanted to be different or something.

Oh, and sorry about the bad pun in the title, I couldn’t help it.

All This Beach and No Ocean…

June 12th, 2005

First I need to thank Brett for helping me by getting this site up and running, next I need to thank Buckley and Stacey for the idea, and finally I need to thank God that I’m not stuck in some desert somewhere for four mo…oh, wait, scratch that last bit. Guess I should introduce myself for anyone who happen to not already know me. Hi, my name is David and I blow things up for a living. Well, I suppose that’s a bit of an over simplification, I’m a member of an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Team with the United States Air Force. For those that don’t know EOD is similar to the Bomb Squad in the civilian world except we deal with military ordnance in addition to IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). There’s actually a lot more that we do, but I figure the simple explanation is best for now, otherwise this could be a long, long post. At any rate, I’m deployed to Afghanistan right now and my most excellent friend Brett has set this site up for me so I can share some stories, pictures, random thoughts, and what-have-you about my experience here. Please bear with me though; I’m a novice at this. Later this year I’ll return to my wife and kids at my home station in Okinawa, Japan and will continue to post from there and where ever else the Air Force decides to send me. At least that’s the plan. For now I’m just going to keep pressing on, and maybe see if I can’t make this patch of world a bit safer. Oh, and blow some stuff up.

For them’s that are curious, here’s a some info on Kandahar Airfield. It’s a bit out of date, but there are some cool images and whatnot. More to follow.

David