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Dropping bombs

Insight on JBLM EOD community partnership

A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier trains to remove a suicide vest from hostage. Photo Credit: Maj. Ryan Plemmons, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - With just a quick drive over to Lewis North on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, one can find a rather explosive scene. That's because it's home to the 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion.

The unit's main purpose is the construction, deployment, disarmament and disposal of military and civilian ordnance.

As one of several mutual aid contracts JBLM has with off-base communities, the JBLM EOD team covers most of Washington, western Oregon and northern California with explosive ordnance disposal support. The unit regularly trains and works alongside the JBLM Provost Marshall Office, local law enforcement, local bomb squads and the FBI.

Although most calls come from communities along the Pacific coast about found sea flares, it is not uncommon for the EOD team to respond to off-base law enforcement calls about possible explosive devices, hand grenades, projectiles, torpedoes, homemade bombs or even fireworks. The team can also be found, during base fall and spring cleanups, at the impact areas clearing out any unexploded artillery rounds.

The team is also prepared to provide assistance to the Secret Service. Anytime the president or vice president of the United States travels in the Pacific Northwest, the JBLM EOD team will take the lead on securing point areas like hotels, conference centers and restaurants.

Receiving around 10 calls per month, the EOD team - comprised of a primary and alternate team - must be ready at all times. Early mornings, late nights, weekends, holidays are no exception.

"From the time a call comes through, it is our mission to be on the road as fast as possible," said Sgt. Paul White, team leader of 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company.

If people are ever unsure about an object they may find or uncover, the team says to err on the side of safety and call 911. Don't assume you know what it is.

"We go through months and months of training to be able to make those determinations," said Capt. Matthew DeAtley, homeland response company commander for 787th EOD Co.

If the unit determines an object is potentially explosive, they will either remove it and transport it to JBLM for safe disposal, or if necessary they will safely dispose of it in place.

Aside from the initial nine weeks in basic training, EOD technicians must attend phase 1 Advance Individual Training in Virginia for two months and phase 2 AIT in Florida for seven months. Even more training is required for leadership roles.

"One of the biggest things we want people to know is that we will come," said Sgt. 1st Class Lonnie Mixon, company operations sergeant with 787th EOD Co. "We would rather people utilize our services and we determine if it's safe, than them try to investigate something themselves and lose a limb or their life."

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