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EOD essential to safety in Kosovo

Story by Sgt. Anthonie R. Seymour

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., - There is a job for every Soldier in Kosovo Force 10, Multi-National Task Force (East), and it can be said that there is a Soldier for every job.

For the 641st Ordnance Company, Alabama Army National Guard, based at Daleville, Ala., explosive ordnance disposal team, that means placing themselves in harm’s way to keep others safe from unexploded ordnance such as mines, bombs, grenades, rockets, mortars, missiles and improvised explosive devices.

“In this Task Force Falcon mission, we all have a job to do,” said Sgt. Kevin Cooper, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Light Team, team leader. “Protecting Soldiers and Civilians from unexploded munitions is our job.”

Where remnants of past wars rest in Kosavars’ minds as constant as mines rest in their fields, business is good.

“Kosovo has heavily concentrated areas for mines and other UXO, and these people have dealt with this since World War II,” Cooper said. “We can be seen as a branch of civil affairs. People learn who we are, and they enjoy seeing us because we get the ordnances out of their backyards, their gardens and their fields.”

Ridding the Kosovo countryside of dangerous explosives will keep the team in high demand and has, in different instances, cultivated a mutually beneficial relationship.

“We’ll definitely stay busy,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Pace, EOD Heavy Team, team leader, Alabama Army National Guard. “When we were in Iraq, the locals knew who you were and what you could do for them. They would seek you out and let you know where the ordnances were, and you’d learn what the bad guys were up to.”

If they seem to lean toward the cocky side of confident, it probably comes with the territory. Everyone on the team is an expert, and each one’s input is deemed invaluable.

“We stick together,” said Pace. “We’ve all got to be on the same plane. Officer, NCO or junior enlisted, we’re in this together. If any one of us says, ‘It’s not right,’ we stop right there. Everyone is listened to.”

“We’re very safety conscious, because one mistake and that’s it,” said Sgt. Kayley Magerman, EOD team member. “We have to be safe so that everyone comes home.”

The team says that their primary means of keeping people safe is through education, and to insure safety, the EOD team is working to inform Soldiers about the dangers of explosives while deployed.

“There are a lot of land mines in Kosovo,” said 1st Sgt. Pete Allen, EOD first sergeant. “It is important that we get out to Task Force Falcon the procedures for identifying and reporting UXOs.”

“Soldiers should be aware of their surroundings, and shouldn’t investigate anything suspicious,” Cooper said. “That’s our job. We’ve been called out to investigate a half-buried coffee can before, and that doesn’t bother us at all.”

Part of informing Task Force Falcon of the EOD mission will be to showcase some of the team’s equipment and techniques.

“We’d like to have a static display before we arrive in country, so people will know what the equipment does and what we are capable of,” Allen said.

Because of their training, equipment and willingness to engage and dispose of deadly unexploded ordnance; EOD Soldiers definitely have a place in Task Force Falcon.

It’s in the front – clearing the way.