We Remember Them

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
Earlier this week, CMSgt McLean and I had the opportunity to visit six of our 82 TRW's 60 detachments and operating locations.

One of these was Det 3, 366 TRS, 782 TRG at Eglin AFB. This detachment provides joint training for the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) career field and graduates over 150 Airmen each year. Det 3 truly embraces the sentiment of the phrase "Combat Capability Starts Here," proudly displayed on our 82 TRW headquarters building.

As you can imagine, EOD training is long and intense and involves painstaking attention to detail. The course teaches Airmen to "render safe" explosive ordnance, either ground or air munitions, including IEDs, so that other forces and civilians may pass safely through dangerous areas.

Approximately 40% of the Airmen don't make the cut and are transferred to other career fields. Even those who graduate typically "wash back" a class or two because of the intensity of the curriculum.

The training is high-stress and in some cases dangerous for the Airmen. As we visited some of the training areas, we watched young Airmen trainees on their hands and feet, combing the ground for mines and ordnance, as live munitions exploded disturbingly close to them. We could see intensity etched on the faces of the trainees as they realized the level of skill and knowledge they graduate with will determine whether they and their comrades will survive in the field during future deployments.

Unfortunately, not all of the Airmen who graduate survive. On Saturday, Chief McLean and I attended a Memorial Service, along with hundreds of other observers, at the EOD School's "Memorial Wall." Sadly, 14 names were added to the wall this year--14 EOD troops killed in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Six of those new names were Airmen, more than any other Service. All six were trained by our own Det 3, 366 TRS.

It was a sobering moment to watch each of their families presented with an American flag by Lt Gen Donald Wetekam, the USAF's senior EOD badge wearer.

These casualties reinforce the fact that the Airmen produced by the 82 TRW and 80 FTW are truly warriors in every sense of the word. Our graduating Air Force EOD warriors certainly epitomize the sentiment expressed in the following words from our new "Airman's Creed":

I am an American Airman,
Guardian of Freedom and Justice,
My Nation's Sword and Shield,
It's Sentry and Avenger.
I Defend my Country with my Life.

These six Airmen, trained by our 366 TRS, defended their country with their life. We honor TSgt Walter Moss, MSgt Brad Clemmons, Capt Kermit Evans, TSgt Tim Weiner, SrA Elizabeth Loncki, and SrA Dan Miller, and their surviving family members. And we must always remember them.