By Sgt. Marcus Fichtl, 8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment CommandAugust 20, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Aug. 20, 2012) -- Three explosive ordnance disposal Soldiers from 8th Theater Sustainment Command's 74th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company overcame time and distance to allow residents in a Maui neighborhood to return safely to their homes following a bomb scare Aug. 15.
Sgt. 1st Class Foster Folger, Staff Sgt. Joshua Pate and Spc. Robert Thomas, all from 1st Team, 3rd Platoon, 74th Explosive Ordnance Disposal, or EOD, Company, 303rd EOD Battalion, 45th Sustainment Brigade, investigated the suspected improvised explosive device, or IED, and determined it to be non-explosive, which allowed more than 36 nearby residents to return to their homes after eight hours of tension.
According to the Maui Police Department, a 40-year-old female discovered a black and silver box labeled "Boom Box" in her 16-year-old son's closet at 12:50 p.m. Upon opening the box, she observed electronics, wiring and other objects which she believed to be a homemade explosive device.
Maui Police took a photo of the suspected explosive device, evacuated the area and contacted the 74th EOD Co., which is based here but is capable of responding to any explosive hazard in the Pacific Rim and frequently supports civilian police departments.
"At 1:40 p.m. I received a phone call from the Maui Police Department that they had a suspicious package with a cylindrical object wrapped in blue tape with wires going from the cylindrical object to an electrical package," said Pate, team leader.
74th EOD leaders examined a photo sent by the Maui Police and deemed it suspicious enough to respond. According to Capt. Dustin Flowers, 74th EOD Co. commander, a team can be geared up and out the door within 30 minutes after receiving notification for any suspected emergency throughout the Hawaiian Island chain.
However, the three-man team first had to wait for a Coast Guard flight to carry them and their equipment as no explosive material is pre-positioned on Maui to neutralize potential hazards, delaying arrival by six hours.
But, when they arrived they hit the ground running. Within an hour and a half from touchdown in Maui, the EOD Team defused the situation and allowed the residents to return to their normal lives.
"We arrived on scene at 7:42 p.m.," said Pate. "By 8 p.m., I was in the bomb suit going into the house."
The team leader, based on EOD procedure, always goes in first and assumes all the initial risk, while teammates support and make sure everything is safe. After Pate secured the potential IED, Thomas put on his suit and together they used an x-ray device to view inside the box, ultimately determining it to be a hoax IED designed to look like a threat.
By 8:50 p.m., the Maui Police gave the "all clear," and residents returned to their homes from a temporary shelter at a nearby gym.
"The Maui Police Department is very thankful for the assistance given by the U.S. Army EOD. As in the past, the U.S. Army EOD has always responded to the needs of our department during situations that require explosive detection or disposal capabilities," said Wayne Ibarra, public information officer, Maui Police Department.
During the course of the investigation, police received information on the whereabouts of the complainant's juvenile son. At about 4:43 p.m., police located the juvenile at another residence in Wailuku and arrested him for "Terroristic Threatening I." He was later released to his foster family per Family Court.
While this emergency turned out to be a hoax, the stresses, particularly for the families of EOD Soldiers, remain real.
"It's hard on my wife; when I told her she started crying," said Pate. "She wanted to make sure I was OK. She hasn't gotten used to me being in charge and assuming all the risk, but she's getting better."
Pate said she understands why they do it. As the 74th EOD acts as the bomb squad for the entire Pacific Rim, their expertise does not go unnoticed, especially by agencies or regions that cannot afford an organic team.
"Every time we take care of any explosive threat, we've potentially saved lives," said Folger, acting officer in charge.
And while many people attribute counter IED work in Afghanistan with the EOD mission, Flowers said this event in Maui shows the Soldiers are as necessary in a peacetime environment and deal with potential hazards as dangerous as any found in a war zone.