Infantry: U.S. Navy Ground Troops in Iraq


October 14, 2005: Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts have been sent to Iraq over the past year to help Army and Marine units in Iraq neutralize IEDs and other unexploded ordinance that litters the countryside. The Army and Marines don't have enough EOD teams to meet demand and have trouble keeping existing specialists in uniform due to competition from the civilian government and private sector.

The Navy has a total of 858 enlisted EOD technicians and 269 EOD officers; for gender-counters, there are 11 female EOD technicians and 7 officers. Iraq tours run for six months with 8 member teams of technicians that deal with everything from car bombs to hand grenades. One unit responded to 576 calls for assistance, including 60 post-blast incidents. EOD specialists conduct post-blast investigations to determine how a device was made and sized.

U.S. commanders are happy to help, but they'd like to cut down the response time. An EOD team typically takes 30 to 40 minutes to get on scene, but senior brass would like to cut that down to 10 to 20 minutes. Often, bomb reports are hoaxes, with another team investigating 198 reports of IEDs. Only 111 turned out to be real. More ominously, insurgent snipers often target EOD personnel when they can identify them.

Like the other services, the Navy has trouble keeping experienced EOD personnel in the ranks. As of September, the Navy's EOD ranks were only about 85 percent filled. Standards for Navy EOD technicians are high, with stiff fitness standards and training. EOD specialists go through 51 weeks of intense training, including instruction in diving, ordnance demolition, parachuting, small arms, and handling marine mammals. A trained EOD tech will, however, get an additional $525 per month for their skills in diving, parachuting, and hazardous duty pay. The navy is offering reenlistment bonuses of up to $45,000 for EOD technicians with at least six years of service. - Doug Mohney




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