FORT IRWIN, Calif. — It was an unusual homecoming for the 759th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Company. Instead of marching into a room full of excited families, on Aug. 14 these soldiers, following COVID-19 protocols, arrived home muted of the traditional fan fair and welcoming community.
Company Commander, Cpt. Claire Henkel and 1st Sgt. James Bohanon said they prepared the families and 27 soldiers of the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, notifying them that their homecoming would be uncommon amid COVID-19. The 759th EOD will be placed on a mandatory 14-day quarantine, mitigation measures put in place to protect the community from the virus.
“With most of our personnel geographically dispersed, the two person EOD team, composed of a Team leader and Team Member, have to depend on each other and become very close knit,” Bohanon said.
“It feels good to be back in the states,” he said upon arrival. “It feels like a whole new world coming home and just dealing with the requirements of being home and dealing with COVID.”
Henkel said the overall mission was successful. She explained that in addition to being deployed, the 759th EOD supported more than 94 incidents at Fort Irwin, the training area, and in the 89 surrounding counties.
“I’m proud to have been able to successfully have supported both missions simultaneously,” Henkel said. “The Theater is changing a lot and we (759th EOD) were able to forecast those changes where EOD support was still applicable and necessary.”
The 759th EOD was in Iraq during the Iranian force’s ballistic missile attack in early January 2020. Iranian forces fired more than a dozen missiles at military bases housing American troops.
“This was a historic event, and rare in the area we were in.” Henkel said. “We responded to the location of those strikes and ensured there were no more explosives hazards remaining and were able to assist with intelligence gathering.”
Bohanon said they’re proud of these accomplishments.
“If feels good, that we were able to do our job and keep people safe,” Bohanon said. “The company as a whole is a small unit and everyone has to work together to accomplish the mission.”
The 759th EOD deployed in December 2019 to Iraq and Syria in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operations called Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), 5th Special Forces Group, and other U.S. Special Operations Forces.
Their primary mission is to provide EOD support to U.S. Armed Forces and joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational (JIIM) operations by detecting, identifying, conducting on-site evaluation, rendering safe, exploitation, and disposal or disposition of explosive ordnance, including weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This includes captured enemy ammunition, unexploded ordnance (UXO), improvised explosive device (IED), and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) munitions.
The 759th EOD will resume regular duty hours upon being released from quarantine.