After six months of clearing improvised explosive devices, providing blast analysis and clearing roadways, the nearly 40 explosive ordnance disposal Airmen assigned to Joint Task Force Paladin South 966th Air Expeditionary Squadron are headed home, but not before being recognized for their achievements.
Thirty-six Airmen were awarded the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and NATO Medal. Eighteen received the Bronze Star, 16 received the Army Commendation Medal, two received the Army Achievement Medal and one Airman was awarded the Purple Heart.
The Airmen come from a melting-pot of bases and commands, but together they became one team. Led by Capt. Jonathan Herman, deployed from the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Chief Master Sgt. Robert Hodges, deployed from Air Combat Command, Langley AFB, Va., the team cleared 98 IEDs, destroyed more than 29,000 pounds of explosives, provided post-blast analysis 16 times, and cleared more than two kilometers of roadway so U.S. and Coalition Forces could patrol outside the wire.
The team conducted more than 180 missions together.
"This unit showed the courage, skill and tactical abilities required to perform the duties of an EOD warrior," said Lt. Col. Frank Davis, JTF Paladin South commander. "Time and time again they have proven themselves in some of the most lethal and challenging areas within Afghanistan and all of us at JTF Paladin South consider it a true honor to have served with each and every one of them.
"Capt. Herman, Chief Hodges, the legacy you leave is one of extreme skill, total commitment to your profession, and untold numbers of Coalition and Afghan lives that you have saved," Davis said at the ceremony honoring the Airmen.
The team arrived together at the end of May, and as a team they departed Kandahar Airfield, back to their various bases Nov. 28.
Article by Master Sgt. Russell Martin, 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs