• First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, carry homemade explosives out of their secure container for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, carry homemade explosives out of their secure container for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion 20th Infantry...

  • Thermite grenades are detonated atop homemade explosives at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenades will burn the HME which was discovered by 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Thermite grenades are detonated atop homemade explosives at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenades will burn the HME which was discovered by 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry...

  • Thermite grenades are detonated atop homemade explosives at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenades will burn the HME which was discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Thermite grenades are detonated atop homemade explosives at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenades will burn the HME which was discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry...

  • Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, walks Russian anti-personnel mines down to a wadi for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The 787th received six Russian anti-personnel mines that were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe keeping.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, walks Russian anti-personnel mines down to a wadi for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The 787th received six Russian anti-personnel mines...

  • Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, walks Russian anti-personnel mines down to a wadi for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The mines were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe keeping.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, walks Russian anti-personnel mines down to a wadi for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The mines were X-rayed and found to be too unstable...

  • Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, places Russian anti-personnel mines in a wadi for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The mines were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe keeping.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, places Russian anti-personnel mines in a wadi for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The mines were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for...

  • Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, prepares six Russian anti-personnel mines for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The mines were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe keeping.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, prepares six Russian anti-personnel mines for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The mines were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe...

  • Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, prepares a detonation wire for use at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The detonator will be used to destroy six Russian anti-personnel mines that were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe keeping.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, prepares a detonation wire for use at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The detonator will be used to destroy six Russian anti-personnel mines that were X-rayed and...

  • Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, prepares a detonator for use at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The detonator will be used to destroy six Russian anti-personnel mines that were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe keeping.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, prepares a detonator for use at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The detonator will be used to destroy six Russian anti-personnel mines that were X-rayed and found...

  • Staff Sgt. Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, demonstrates to Pfc. Eric Wallace, 787th EOD, the proper way to wire Composition 4 plastic explosive at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. Elo and Wallace destroyed by detonation six Russian anti-personnel mines that were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe keeping.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Staff Sgt. Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, demonstrates to Pfc. Eric Wallace, 787th EOD, the proper way to wire Composition 4 plastic explosive at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. Elo and Wallace destroyed by...

  • Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, places a one-pound block of Composition 4 plastic explosive atop six Russian anti-personnel mines slated for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The mines were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe keeping.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Staff Sgt. Andrew Elo, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, places a one-pound block of Composition 4 plastic explosive atop six Russian anti-personnel mines slated for disposal by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26...

  • Thermite grenades are detonated atop homemade explosives at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenades will burn the HME which was discovered by 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Thermite grenades are detonated atop homemade explosives at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenades will burn the HME which was discovered by 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry...

  • First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, unreel detonation wire that will be used to trigger thermite grenades, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenades, in turn, will destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, unreel detonation wire that will be used to trigger thermite grenades, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenades, in turn, will destroy homemade explosives which...

  • First Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, places homemade explosives in a hole for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    First Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, places homemade explosives in a hole for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry...

  • Sgt. Philip Vota, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, digs a hole that will be used to place homemade explosive in for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by Battle Company, 5-20th Inf. during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Sgt. Philip Vota, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, digs a hole that will be used to place homemade explosive in for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by Battle Company, 5-20th...

  • First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, prepare homemade explosives for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, prepare homemade explosives for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st...

  • First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, prepare homemade explosives for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, prepare homemade explosives for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st...

  • Pvt. Bryce Garrison, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, digs a hole that will be used to place homemade explosive in for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by Battle Company, 5-20 Inf. during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Pvt. Bryce Garrison, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, digs a hole that will be used to place homemade explosive in for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by Battle Company, 5-20...

  • First Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, places homemade explosives in a hole for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    First Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, places homemade explosives in a hole for disposal, Feb. 15, 2012. The explosives were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry...

  • First Lt. Dan Marvin, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, removes a thermite grenade from its packaging, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    First Lt. Dan Marvin, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, removes a thermite grenade from its packaging, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment...

  • First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, prepare a thermite grenade for detonation, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    First Lt. Dan Marvin (left) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, prepare a thermite grenade for detonation, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th...

  • First Lt. Dan Marvin, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, places a thermite grenade atop homemade explosives in a hole, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    First Lt. Dan Marvin, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, places a thermite grenade atop homemade explosives in a hole, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th...

  • U.S. Army 1st Lt. Dan Marvin (front) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, prepare a thermite grenade for detonation, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    U.S. Army 1st Lt. Dan Marvin (front) and 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, prepare a thermite grenade for detonation, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by...

  • U.S. Army 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, places a thermite grenade atop homemade explosives in a hole, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, during a patrol in Shinkai district, Afghanistan.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    U.S. Army 1st Sgt. William Conard, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, places a thermite grenade atop homemade explosives in a hole, Feb. 15, 2012. The grenade will be used to destroy homemade explosives which were discovered by 5th Battalion...

  • Pfc. Eric Wallace, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, examines the remnants of six Russian anti-personnel mines that were destroyed by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The mines were X-rayed and found to be too unstable for safe keeping.

    Walking the 'lonely walk.' Who is EOD?

    Pfc. Eric Wallace, 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, examines the remnants of six Russian anti-personnel mines that were destroyed by detonation at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Feb. 26, 2012. The mines were X-rayed and found to be...

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - The silence of a frigid February afternoon was broken by an ominous warning. "Fire in the hole, fire in the hole, fire in the hole," the warning echoed across a sub-freezing landscape draped in ice and snow. Seconds later an explosive ordnance technician from 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, detonated several thermite grenades that destroyed over 500 pounds of homemade explosive.

The HME burned this afternoon could have been used to injure, maim, or kill Afghan civilians, International Security Assistance Force soldiers or their Afghan partners, but thanks in part to the soldiers of 787 EOD; this HME is cooked, literally.

As it happens, the HME that was destroyed this day was discovered during a raid on a suspected bomb making laboratory conducted the previous week. Had it not been discovered, it could have been used to build an IED, in which case EOD would have to come out and blow the IED in place.

Who would come?

Who are these people that are willing to risk their lives neutralizing explosives that could just as easily kill them? To find out the answer, I linked up with 1st Lt. Dan Marvin and 1st Sgt. William Conard, both from 787 EOD, and learned a thing or two about those who walk "the lonely walk."

On the surface, Conard and Marvin are straightforward, down to earth guys; the kind of men you would invite to your family barbecue. But underneath their sensible exteriors are a couple of the most courageous men in the U.S. Army. If there's any doubt, consider how few people in the armed forces actually volunteer to walk up to a live IED, knowing full well it could be detonated at any time, and disarm it. But they do it!

"I did 10 years of warehouse-supply work, and at the end of the day I didn't feel like I'd accomplished anything," says Conard. "So I went to Egypt and worked with the EOD guys and did some of the stuff they did. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I finished it. 'Hey I cleared this explosive hazard and potentially saved the lives of numerous people.'"

So a warehouseman in search of job satisfaction chose working with explosives over stocking shelves. Surely that doesn't sound like a rational decision to some people.

You've got to be a little bit irrational to do it as well laughed Conard.

Marvin's explanation wasn't much different. An enlisted infantryman for 9 years, Marvin was looking for the next big challenge in his Army career, so he chose to attend Officer Candidate School where he made the decision to go EOD.

"I wanted to do something that would make me feel like I was playing a significant role on the battlefield and taking care of the good guys, and EOD was it," Marvin says. "That was my option; either that or be a maintenance officer and I didn't want to do that," he laughs.

So what is the job of an explosive ordnance technician anyway? Do they just blow up bombs and such, or is there something more to their job?

"We're trained and specialized to handle that threat," Conard says. "So we clear that threat and keep the roads clear for personnel and supplies moving up and down the route [which] keeps personnel from getting hit with those devices or trying to clear them themselves."

Still, Marvin explains, that's not the sum of their job.

"Our job is to protect," he says. "Our job is not necessarily to blow up bombs. Our job is to protect personnel and property. That's the only reason we go out there and do it."

Page last updated Tue October 2nd, 2012 at 00:00