Friday, July 12, 2013

EOD Airman recognized for courage

by Airman 1st Class Tammie Ramsouer
JBER Public Affairs

7/11/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- On a bright sunny day, many people may think it's a good opportunity to go outside and enjoy Alaska's great outdoors. According to Air Force Master Sgt. Andrew Adrian that means it offers an opportunity to defuse bombs.

Adrian, 673d Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordinance Disposal Flight, grew up always working hard to get what he needed and where he wanted to be, which has made him successful at his job.

"Nothing in life comes free," Adrian said.

His hard work and bravery earned him a nomination for Portraits in Courage, an annual recognition of Airmen past and present for their achievements and sacrifices in combat situations.

When he joined, he knew exactly what job was right for him - EOD. He never thought twice about the decision. He said deciding to join the Air Force was the right thing for him to do.

"It just looked like it was a lot of fun and now that I'm in it, I love it," Adrian said. "I wouldn't want to be doing anything else, that's for sure."

He wanted to travel, and travel he did.

At the beginning of his career, traveling was not too common. But he said once the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred, all that changed. Just about everyone working in an EOD unit started to deploy at least once a year.

"I have been all over the world with six different [permanent change of station] assignments and nine deployments," Adrian said.

His deployments and temporary duty assignments have taken him to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Korea and Egypt.

During most deployments, he said an EOD technician performs duties in a wide range of locations, such as in remote areas and aboard aircraft carriers.

In many cases, there may be no way to bring bomb suits or robots that can defuse bombs. Adrian explained in these situations, knowledge and education come into play, and knowing what to do every step of the way is critical for a team to walk away uninjured.
Most missions are briefed days in advance to provide the necessary intelligence information, and research on the team's destination.

Not every day was meant to find improvised explosive devices or weapons caches. Some were full of anything and everything - including firefights. In one of the missions Adrian was on a team that came under enemy fire as soon as they landed. It was very disorienting for Adrian to figure out where the shots came from with IEDs blowing up around them from enemy fire, he said.

In another mission Adrian took on, he knew the location was a known area for IEDs.
He served on a team with the British Task Force 528 Mobility Operation Group and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, to conduct in an IED sweep through an abandoned four-room mud hut. Adrian's job was to watch them sweep through the mud hut and to make any corrections.

The first room they checked was empty and cleared, but the second was not. As they investigated the room, they did not recognize the dirt-covered rectangular pressure bomb three feet in front of them. Adrian looked and hesitated, but saw the IED before the Afghan soldiers had reached it. He yelled "Stop!" and ran to grab them, but the ANA members didn't understand. Adrian ran toward them, grabbed their shoulders, and pulled them back to safety.

While working with the British, Adrian and his team had to train new EOD technicians as much as possible so they knew what to look for when doing a random sweep during a mission. After talking consistently to the British commanders, Adrian said he built a great knowledge and strong working relationship with the British Task Force.

While stationed at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, Adrian was mentored by an EOD Soldier who he was replacing. The Soldier would take Adrian on missions to farmiliarize him with the area.

Adrian was made team leader with the Soldier as his transitional back-up. During a sweep of one compound, members of Adrian's team found IEDs. That's when Adrian went to work.

There were two pressure-plate IEDs and a jug full of homemade explosives. Adrian slowly removed the bombs from the room with a rope so if they were booby trapped it would not harm any of the team members inside the room. After that sweep of the third room, he carefully moved to observe the fourth room.

Adrian found an IED in the doorway. He needed his rope again and asked the soldier to retrieve it. While walking to where the rope was, the Soldier wandered into a non-safety zone.

"My counterpart happened to step on an IED about seven feet behind me and got severely injured," Adrian said.

Adrian quickly went into life-saving mode and ran out to help the Soldier, who was bleeding from his legs. Adrian applied tourniquets and waited for the medic to get to him.
"We got him out of there and got him on a medical evacuation by helicopter," Adrian said.
Later, he found out that the blast had broken the Soldier's legs, but fortunately did not need to be amputated.

The training and hands-on experiences over the years made Adrian skilled at what he does.

These acts of bravery and knowledge of previous deployments gained him a Bronze Star Medal and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

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