By Rear Adm. Brian Brakke, Commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command/Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Pacific
Rear Adm. Brian Brakke assumed command of NECC/NECC Pacific on Aug. 12, 2016. NECC/NECC Pacific is a Type Command responsible for the organizing, manning, training, and equipping Navy Expeditionary Combat Forces worldwide. NECC/NECC Pacific provides expeditionary capability when and where Combatant Commanders demand forces, and in 2015, the TYCOM completed 135 missions in 79 countries, across seven continents in support of six geographic and three functional combatant commands.
In 2016 and 2017 our nation will be marking the 75th anniversary of pivotal moments in our military and nation’s history. This year, we mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor; and in 2017, we will mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of our Naval Construction Forces – the “Can-Do” Seabees; the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.
As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “It takes a long time to bring the past up to the present,” it also takes the present to reflect on the past and its continued significance. Did you know that prior to the commencement of World War II there was no formal EOD program? It’s hard to imagine that there were no qualified ordnance personnel who could render safe or dispose of unexploded ordnance items that posed potential hazards to service members and civilians prior to the commencement of the Second World War.
That need for qualified ordnance experts spearheaded a formalized training program in 1941. The first EOD students to participate in formalized training comprised the Navy Mine Disposal Class, which was convened at the U.S. Naval Mine Disposal School, Naval Gun Factory. That first class graduated on Aug. 22, 1941. These students serve as EOD’s backbone of 75 years of success and sharpening of explosive ordnance disposal know how.
That same year, the Bomb Disposal School was also established. In November 1945 these two schools were combined. In 1953, two major operational EOD units were commissioned to support EOD operations in the fleet. Pacific Fleet EOD assets were organized at EOD Unit ONE at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Atlantic Fleet EOD assets were organized at EOD Unit TWO at Charleston Naval Base, Charleston, South Carolina. During the 1960’s, growth of the nuclear weapons arsenal and technological advances in surface and underwater ordnance generated a requirement for a larger and more technically competent EOD community and to meet this need, EOD Unit TWO was established at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Today, EOD Group TWO is located at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, and EOD Group ONE is headquartered at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California. Both groups fall under NECC/NECC Pacific.
To meet increased requirements for trained EOD Technicians, as well as to support expanding curriculum requirements, the Chief of Naval Operations implemented plans to consolidate Naval School EOD training at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The consolidation from Indian Head, Maryland to Eglin Air Force Base was completed in 1999. The consolidated EOD training facility supports the Department of Defense Joint Service EOD training mission. This centralizes all basic EOD training at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Today, EOD is comprised of nearly 3,000 officers and enlisted who provide the Navy’s own maritime EOD and Mobile and Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) capability within the Department of Defense. Navy EOD is the force of choice to conduct maritime Mine Countermeasures, counter Improvised Explosive Devices, Weapons of Mass Destruction and all other types of weaponry, and enable Special Operations and Conventional Forces access to denied areas. During 2015, EOD/MDSU forces took part in 22 combined exercises in 10 countries and provided operational support in every Combatant Commander’s theater of responsibility.
Here’s the Top 10 Things to Know about Navy EOD:
1. Navy EOD is the world’s premier combat force for countering explosive hazards to include: Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Underwater Mines and all other types of weaponry.
2. Navy EOD provides capable and ready forces to the Maritime, Joint and Land Component Commanders from CONUS and forward deployed locations around the globe.
3. Navy EOD is the only EOD Force that conducts underwater Mine Countermeasures, exploitation and attribution of underwater ordnance.
4. Navy EOD is the force of choice to enable combat operations and offensive maneuver for Conventional, Joint and Special Operations forces operating from the sea thru the littorals and ashore in denied areas.
5. The 1st U.S. Navy Bomb Disposal School formed at the American University Campus in Washington, DC and was established by Rear Admiral Draper L. Kauffman (1911-1979) aka the “Father of U.S. Bomb Disposal”.
6. The EOD badge and the three levels (Basic, Senior, and Master) have become the standard for all four Services. To this day the EOD badge remains the only identical badge worn by all branches of service.
7. EOD units start to arrive in Vietnam, 1965, which saw an increase in overall participation by EOD units. From 1966 to the drawdown of Vietnam in 1971, EOD personnel responded to more than 95,000 EOD incidents and EOD personnel received 106 Purple Heart Medals. During the same period EOD personnel earned seven Silver Star Medals.
8. On Feb 14, 1969, the EOD Memorial Committee formed, and consisted of senior Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force officers of the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
9. Navy EOD represented the critical element in eliminating UXO from the USS Stark (FFG-31) after two anti-ship Exocet missiles fired from an Iraqi aircraft hit her May 18, 1987.
10. Throughout the 2000s, Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal experienced a high level of growth. Student throughput in 2000 was 428; in 2009 it increased to 1277; in 2012 it increased to over 1,800 total throughput capacities for U.S. EOD Basic, Advanced IED Disposal, and International EOD Courses.