EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Military leaders honored fallen Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians at the EOD Memorial Ceremony on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, May 6.
The ceremony recognized Lt. j.g. Aaron P. Fowler, a U.S. Navy EOD officer and Naval Academy graduate from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who died during a training mission in Hawaii on April 17, 2022.
Fowler became the 344th fallen hero listed on the EOD Memorial that honors all EOD technicians who have made the ultimate sacrifice at home and abroad since World War II.
U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Forrest C. Poole III, the assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics, was the guest speaker at the event.
Hosted by U.S. Navy Capt. Steven Beall, the commanding officer of the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the ceremony featured a wreath laying and name reading.
Based on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the Naval EOD School is a jointly staffed school that provides specialized, basic and advanced EOD training for U.S. and allied troops and selected U.S. government personnel.
U.S. Army Capt. Michael Villahermosa, an instructor at the EOD school, said the highlight of the ceremony was taking the time to honor the EOD technicians who came before them.
“Every year, we gather as a community and reaffirm our commitment to the families, friends and colleagues of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Gold Star Families and let them know, no matter what happens, we are here for them,” said Villahermosa, a native of Rosedale, New York, who has deployed to Afghanistan twice and Kosovo once.
“There are very few communities that do this annually,” said Villahermosa. “We are a family.”
Villahermosa, who serves as the Air Ordnance Division officer at the school, said he welcomed the opportunity to serve as an instructor at the Naval EOD School.
“By far the best part of this assignment is developing the next generation of Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians,” said Villahermosa, who was previously a platoon leader and operations officer in Baumholder, Germany. “They are incredibly intelligent and ready for the challenge.”
EOD technicians from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps safeguard the nation and the men and women who defend it from explosive threats while supporting operations overseas and law enforcement officials at home.
Brig. Gen. Daryl O. Hood, the commanding general of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dave Silva, the command senior enlisted leader, attended the ceremony.
Headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the multifunctional and deployable 20th CBRNE Command is home to 75 percent of the active-duty U.S. Army EOD technicians and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) specialists, as well as the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, five Weapons of Mass Destruction Teams and three Nuclear Disablement Teams.
Soldiers and U.S. Army civilians from 20th CBRNE Command deploy from 19 bases in 16 states to take on the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.
Command Sgt. Maj. Dave Silva, the senior enlisted leader for the 20th CBRNE Command, has served as a U.S. Army EOD technician for 26 years. He said National EOD Day is a time for EOD technicians to come together and remember their fallen heroes.
“Once a year, EOD techs from all services, across all living generations, families and supporters gather for one weekend. We gather to honor and remember our fallen, pay tribute to their sacrifice and celebrate their lives. This small community is bonded by far more than a common school we’ve attended,” said Silva.
“There is a love we have for each other that drives us to do what others consider unthinkable,” said Silva. “Most of EOD training is preparing to be perfect on what would otherwise be the worst day of our lives.”
A Master EOD technician, Silva has deployed seven times and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has served on protection missions for presidents and the Pope. He has been to all 50 states and five of the seven continents. Silva also earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Excelsior College and he is pursuing his master’s degree in Business Management.
Silva said the EOD motto of “initial success or total failure” captures the essence of what’s at stake every time EOD technicians suit up to confront and defeat explosives. The command sergeant major said the volunteer community takes on this dangerous mission to save lives, protect property and enable operations.
“What makes us do it? It’s not the bomb. It’s not the thrill of danger as Hollywood would have you believe,” said Silva, who is from Long Beach, California. “It’s our calling to save lives and our commitment to each other. It’s a commitment that lasts long after the mission is over.”
Silva said the joint nature of the EOD community was on full display at the ceremony, which was held at a Navy school on an Air Force base and attended by Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
“We place a lot of pride on our EOD badge, all four services share it,” said Silva. “It is the emblem of our trials and victories, as well as the representation of those that took the long walk for what they believed in. However, what makes EOD truly unique is not the badge… it’s the heart behind the badge.”
Silva said that the reading of every name on the EOD Memorial and the other events of National EOD Day are how the tight-knit volunteer community keeps its promise to never forget their fallen and their purpose.
“As long as there are explosives, there will be those that place themselves between the danger and what they love. This is the essence of our EOD family,” said Silva. “We remember.”