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63rd EOD Battalion redeploys to Fort Drum

October 6, 2011

By Capt. Christopher J. Yeazel

The Army's explosive ordnance disposal units are among the most highly trained personnel in today's force, and any Soldier who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan can attest to the significance of the life-saving skills that EOD personnel bring to combat with them.

What many Soldiers who transition into a reset-retrain cycle following redeployment may not appreciate is the extensive, often global, scope of the mission that EOD units continue to execute once they redeploy.

After a yearlong deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 63rd EOD Battalion, received a warm welcome back to Fort Drum on Sept. 27 by a rear detachment that executed its own extensive mission set while remaining in garrison.

HHD, 63rd EOD served as a force-multiplier for coalition forces in Afghanistan.

After transitioning with a U.S. Navy EOD Mobile Unit, the 63rd EOD led 14 EOD companies from a variety of services in support of eight brigade combat teams and two coalition task forces operating in an area larger than 100,000 square kilometers.

The battalion executed a total of 5,040 missions designed to either "render safe" or safely dispose of, explosive ordnance, conduct post-blast analysis of improvised explosive devices, or identify and segregate unexploded ordnance.

Soldiers provided support to both quick reaction forces, reserve forces on call for special contingencies, and route clearance packages, formations that travel along designated routes in an effort to render them safe for convoys and patrolling units.

In addition to these missions conducted in support of coalition forces, the 63rd EOD also partnered with Afghan National Security Forces in an effort to build their capacity for EOD operations as they assume responsibility for security operations.

Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Hockstedler, command sergeant major for the 52nd Ordnance Group (EOD), praised their service by saying "Lt. Col. (Mark) Finch and Command Sgt. Maj. (Larry) Cushing took their crew in, assumed that role, and really just knocked it out of the park," while noting the vast "scope and the range of their responsibility."

Col. Marue Quick, 52nd Ordnance Group (EOD) commander, echoed this sentiment by saying "they did absolutely wonderful, and it's great to see them come back home."

Upon returning to Fort Drum, Soldiers of 63rd EOD looked forward to returning to their loved ones after a year of intense operations in Afghanistan.

First Lt. William Day, HHD commander, was proud to see all of his Soldiers return to Fort Drum, saying "it's great to be home, and bring everybody home safely."

"It's great to be back," said Spc. Lukasz Trojanowski, a paralegal specialist with the battalion staff. "You don't think you will miss a lot of things, but you do miss them."

Spouses within the battalion were proud of their wives' and husbands' accomplishments and were elated to see them return safe.

Family readiness group leader Suzanne Emberton, wife of Capt. Jay Emberton, battalion intelligence officer, remarked that "it will be good just to be able to spend time with (him)."

Meanwhile, the battalion rear detachment maintained an intense operational tempo while the forward element was deployed to Afghanistan.

EOD units execute a mission set in garrison that is nearly as extensive as their deployed mission, including counter-IED training provided to installation tenant units, civil UXO disposal support rendered to law enforcement, and training to local, state and federal authorities on explosives identification and disposal techniques.

EOD technicians also provide support to the U.S. Secret Service to secure sites for elected and appointed officials, often travelling on a global basis.

The 63rd EOD Rear Detachment executed more than 200 such missions over the past year, in addition to managing daily training, operations, supply and personnel functions for eight companies and overseeing several company deployments and redeployments.

Sgt. 1st Class James England, rear detachment operations NCOIC, summarized this intense pace with a revealing smile before saying, "our motto on the rear detachment was 'doing more with less.'"

As Soldiers of HHD, 63rd EOD enjoy reintegrating with their Families, they look back on year of accomplishment in Afghanistan with great pride. They can look forward to an intense and challenging tempo when they return to work as their skills and training are called into demand across the nation and around the world.

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