FORT RILEY, Kansas – A U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician was selected for the defense attaché warrant officer program and an assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Warrant Officer Michael J. Wohlrabe previously served as an operations noncommissioned officer for three years in the Defense Attaché Office in Kyiv, Ukraine.
He originally applied for the Defense Attaché Service in 2016 while working as an EOD company operations noncommissioned officer at the 759th Ordnance Company (EOD) on Fort Irwin, California.
“I was a new sergeant 1st class but had already served as a platoon sergeant and wanted to seek out broadening assignment opportunities,” said Wohlrabe.
After his first year in Kyiv, Ukraine, the U.S. Army brought back the warrant officer program for the Attaché Intelligence Operations Technician. One of the prerequisites for becoming a warrant officer was three years of service as an NCO in a Defense Attaché Office.
“I enjoy being part of a diplomatic mission and promoting U.S. values like freedom and self-determination,” said Wohlrabe. “In Ukraine, I loved to visit schools to speak with students about American traditions and holidays as well as join in at the American House’s English-speaking club to assist Ukrainians with their English skills.”
In Tajikistan, Wohlrabe will serve as the operations coordinator for the senior defense official and defense attaché, the U.S. Department of Defense representative to the country team.
Prior to his service in Ukraine, Wohlrabe served as an EOD technician with the Fort Irwin, California-based 759th EOD Company and Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based 737th EOD Company.
He had just returned to the 79th EOD Battalion when he was selected for the Defense Attaché warrant officer program. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2003 as a medical technician and became an EOD technician after attending the Naval EOD School on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in 2010.
“I was very interested in learning the technical details about ordnance and Improvised Explosive Devices,” said Wohlrabe, a native of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. “I was also aware that IEDs where the number one threat to U.S. military personnel in operations at the time and wanted to be one of the Soldiers responding to that threat.”
A veteran of Afghanistan and Kosovo, Wohlrabe has confronted and defeated numerous explosive devices.
In 2011, he deployed as an EOD team leader to Wardak and Logar Provinces in Afghanistan.
At Command Outpost Sultan Kheyl in Warnak Province, he supported air assault, mounted and dismounted operations and responded to approximately 30 IEDs. Accompanying the route clearance platoon on weekly missions to keep Highway 1 clear of explosive devices, he encountered many large command-wired IEDs buried deep in the ground.
Later in the deployment from Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar Province, Wohlrabe accompanied the 82nd Airborne Division Pathfinders on weekly missions and participated in 20 IED responses.
Wohlrabe witnessed firsthand the destructive power of IEDs. In December 2011, his team was called to defeat a command-wired IED in the middle of a culvert. About halfway through their drive back to their outpost, another vehicle struck a second IED that claimed four American Soldiers – an IED response that Wohlrabe remembers today as vividly as the day it happened.
On his second deployment in 2014, he served as a platoon sergeant on Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. He conducted unexploded ordnance missions with the Kosovo Security Forces troops and helped to establish an unexploded ordnance course near Prizren, Kosovo.
Wohlrabe has used his EOD skills on a wide variety of domestic explosive mitigation missions, both on and off post, from rendering safe a World War I era 75mm round at a barn in the mountain resort town of Asheville, North Carolina, to removing a 155mm round stuck from the barrel of an M777 howitzer on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He said his experience as an Army EOD technician has given him the grit, determination and attention to detail needed to succeed in his new assignment.
“When you are working as a diplomat, everything you do is observed,” said Wohlrabe. “You must always be professional, slow to anger, tactful and calm.”
Since his acceptance to the U.S. Army defense attaché warrant officer program, his time as an EOD technician has come to an end. His last EOD assignment was with the Fort Riley, Kansas-based 79th EOD Battalion, which is part of the 71st EOD Group and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command.
Headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, 20th CBRNE Command Soldiers and civilians deploy from 19 bases in 16 states to take on the world’s most dangerous weapons. Since 2003, 20th CBRNE Command EOD Soldiers partnered with U.S. Navy EOD technicians to disable hundreds of thousands of IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The experiences I have had over the last 18 years in the Army have shaped me into the person I am today,” said Wohlrabe. “I look very fondly upon my time as an EOD tech and truly believe the decision to volunteer to be a tech was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”
According to the 79th EOD Battalion commander, Wohlrabe is an example of what a Soldier can achieve in the U.S. Army.
“The 79th (EOD Battalion) is extremely excited about Warrant Officer Wohlrabe’s selection for the defense attaché program,” said Lt. Col. Aaron C. Teller, the 79th EOD Battalion commander and a native of Hillsville, Virginia. “His story exemplifies the endless opportunities available to our Soldiers that can come with continued service.
“His success story is just one example of all the high caliber Soldiers we have in our EOD formations and all the doors that can become unlocked through hard work and dedication to the Army’s mission,” said Teller.