By Dustin Senger (Fort Carson)June 23, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Fort Carson’s 749th Ordnance Company deployed to Afghanistan June 17 to assist 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
About 40 Soldiers from 749th Ord., 242nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), will support 2nd BCT in southern Afghanistan by combating improvised explosive devices and conventional munitions, said Capt. Corbin Copeland, 749th Ord. commander.
“Our main focus will be on the counter IED fight,” said Copeland. “Everybody thinks EOD only shows up when they find a bomb or an IED explodes. The EOD community is aggressively trying to get to the left of that and stop everything before it happens.”
Roughly half of Copeland’s Soldiers had already stepped onto a battlefield and most of his team leaders had deployed three or four times. The unit started training for the one-year deployment to Afghanistan about three months after returning from Iraq.
“They have been working hard for over a year,” said Copeland, who took command in February 2010. “They’re ready to support the brigade and save lives in Afghanistan.”
“They’re a confident group and very easy to get along with,” said Staff Sgt. Vernon Shepard, 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., regarding the 749th Ord. He was making the journey with the EOD unit to Afghanistan, as one of about 3,500 Soldiers from 2nd BCT deploying in May and June.
The 749th Ord. shared farewells with friends and relatives, and then departed for the Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group wearing MultiCam uniforms, the camouflage pattern for Operation Enduring Freedom. They filed inside the airport wearing tactical gear, full rucksacks and slung rifles.
The imminent transition from training to combat didn’t dampen their spirits. The war fighters smiled while exchanging stories, snacks, sports drinks and reading materials, prior to weighing-in for the flight more than 7,000 miles west. Three Blue Star mothers offered toiletries, phone cards, pocket flags and hugs.
“We’re very tight -- everyone knows each other,” said Spc. Wyatt Fluckiger, 749th Ord., while staging his gear inside the holding area, on the eve of his 22nd birthday. He had just finished a sirloin steak dinner inside the A/DACG with the other EOD technicians.
Fluckiger was assigned to the Fort Carson unit last summer, after graduating from the joint-service Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal. He said only five out of 25 servicemembers passed, three quit, and the most arduous testing involved ground ordnance, such as land mines, grenades and projected munitions.
“I feel like the training has been good, but still, everything is different,” said Fluckiger, explaining that the EOD unit encourages ideas from every Soldier, regardless of their rank. “It’s like a puzzle. Even though you’ve solved puzzles in the past that doesn’t mean you’ll solve them in the future.”
“They’re really good at what they do,” said Pfc. Alan Sanders, 749th Ord., while sitting near the runway about 30 minutes prior to departure. Sanders, a human resources specialist, described the EOD technicians as intelligent, confident and athletic. The approaching flight starts his first tour of duty in a contingency area.
“I cannot wait to get back,” said Sanders, glancing over a staged airplane on the horizon. “I was just talking to my wife and it’s really starting to sink in.”
“I have never worked with a better group of Soldiers in my career,” said Copeland, an Army officer with more than seven years of service. “My thanks goes out to all the Family members who support the company. They truly are the ones who sacrifice the most.”