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EODMU 11 returns to Whidbey Island for last time

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Seth Bjork, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11, originally from Ventura, Calif., takes three-month old son, Carson, in his arms for the first time from wife, Kerri, during an early morning homecoming in the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Air Terminal, April 16. EODMU-11 returned April 12 to 16 after a six-month deployment supporting missions in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti and Kuwait.  - photo by Tucker M. Yates
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Seth Bjork, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11, originally from Ventura, Calif., takes three-month old son, Carson, in his arms for the first time from wife, Kerri, during an early morning homecoming in the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Air Terminal, April 16. EODMU-11 returned April 12 to 16 after a six-month deployment supporting missions in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti and Kuwait.
— image credit: photo by Tucker M. Yates

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 returned home to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station April 12 to 16 from missions in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Djibouti.

Cmdr. Richard Hayes, EODMU 11 commanding officer, assumed command of Combined Joined Task Force Paladin South located at Kandahar Air Base in October 2009. Twenty-five EODMU-11 sailors spent the past six months with Hayes in Southern Afghanistan and the 360-person force, coordinating command and control of EOD and Counter-Improvised Explosive Device, or C-IED, teams at the heart of the fight in Afghanistan.

EOD and C-IED teams conducted over 1,122 missions, defeated more than 452 IEDs and disposed of over 34,825 pounds (net explosive weight) of homemade explosives, unexploded ordnance, and explosive remnants of war, removing them from enemy supply lines. They conducted over 304 route clearance patrols and cleared 8,988 miles along key routes and highways.

“The staff did a lot of hard work over there; they were a big part in the IED role over there, supporting all the EOD techs out on the battlefield,” said EODMU 11 Command Master Chief Stacey McClain, in a news release. “They saved countless lives. There’s really no way to put a number on how many lives their contributions actually saved for the guys out in the field, but it’s definitely an accomplishment.”

Combined Joined Task Force Paladin-South developed target packages and intelligence profiles that assisted in identifying and removing critical personnel from the IED network. They managed and maintained over 5,000 vehicle and personnel-borne electronic warfare systems for U.S. and coalition forces, significantly decreasing the enemy’s ability to remotely initiate IEDs.

Teams provided mission-essential C-IED training to over 8,000 coalition and Afghan forces throughout the region and established training programs for the Afghan National Security Forces so they could locate, identify and react to IEDs on the battlefield, inevitably saving thousands of citizens subjected to this threat on a daily basis.

“The partnering is huge, the only way we’re going to get out of there is by getting the partnering going and let them take over their own country,” said McClain. “They’re getting better, the guys are brand new and just getting them established and getting them trained is pretty tough, but they’re working it.”

Two EODMU-11 platoons supported missions in Bahrain, Kuwait and Djibouti for Coalition Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Mobile Diving and Salvage (EOD/MDS) forces. The eight-member units employed their expertise in C-IED, counter explosive hazards, underwater mine countermeasures and underwater search, salvage, and obstacle clearance to achieve unimpeded movement of combat forces and protection of coalition and civilian lives.

In Bahrain, the EOD Platoon 11-1-2 supported the Central Command EOD and Mine Countermeasures task groups in local and regional response missions. They also conducted eight separate exercises with partner nations in the Arabian Gulf, six dives to over 230 feet in the Mk-16 Mod 1 underwater breathing apparatus, and four sailors completed qualifications to become master EOD technicians.

“Since the war is on land now, one of the skill sets that has suffered is diving so this was a good deployment for these guys. We got a lot of the young guys trained up in that mission area,” said McClain.

“Water is definitely our cup of tea, naturally, we’re in the Navy. Since the start of the war we’ve all been more ground-centric; we’ve been getting away from our roots and mine counter-measure operations,” said Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Troy Wold, a leading chief petty officer with Platoon 11-1-1, of New Orleans, La. “It’s definitely a good thing because it’s going to come back around one day, so to get that rotation to keep everyone proficient in all the aspects of the job is good.”

In Kuwait and Djibouti, the 13-man EOD Platoon 11-1-1 supported both Central Command and African Command in anti-terrorism/force protection diving missions for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army’s major embarkation/debarkation sea ports. They safely executed over 500 dives, three humanitarian demining action missions, two integration exercises with regional partners and disposed of over 50,000 pounds retrograde demolition and ordnance.

“The insurgents come and take (retrograde ordnance) out of ammo dumps and they turn it into IEDs, so it’s a big push for us to take those explosives and get rid of it because it’s sitting out where it’s not protected,” said McClain.

EODMU 11 was relieved in place by EODMU 5, from Guam, at a Turnover of Authority ceremony, April 10, 2010.

“It’s definitely good to be home. The work’s done, now it’s time to take care of the home front,” said Wold.

“Getting everybody back home alive and safe is really an accomplishment for everyone who was on that mission with us. It’s really good to be home,” said McClain.

EODMU 11 has been ordered to re-locate in San Diego with EOD Group One. After some well-deserved rest and recreation with family and friends here, they will turn the lights off, close the door and head south to officially stand the unit up at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado making the June 1 homeport change official.

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