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Meet the real 'Hurt Locker' team from Hill Air Force Base

By Alex Cabrero | Posted - Mar. 18, 2010 at 9:55 p.m.


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OGDEN -- The movie "The Hurt Locker" recently won an Academy Award for best picture. It follows an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team in Iraq and is bringing a lot of attention to EODs.

Technical Sgt. Eric Eberhard and Staff Sgt. David Kruger are EODs with Hill Air Force Base's 419th Fighter Wing and got back from Iraq just last week. Their job was to disarm explosives -- one of the biggest killers of American soldiers.

What is... EOD?
EOD stands for Explosive Ordnance Disposal. On average there are 4,000 technicians within the four services (Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force). The technicians are responsible for disarming, rendering safe and disposing of unexploded bombs and terrorist devices, typically called IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).

While both Eberhard and Kruger say they're excited there is a popular movie spotlighting their job, it isn't the most accurate portrayal of what really goes on when their team is called. Yes, it's a dangerous job, they say, but not a reckless one.

"EOD is a team effort, and that's one of the things the movie doesn't show a lot of, is the security escorts -- all the other people who support us in our missions," Eberhard says.

In "The Hurt Locker," the main character often puts on his bomb suit and walks right up to a bomb. At one point, he takes off his communication devices, cutting him off from talking to his teammates.

Eberhard and Kruger say that would never happen during real-life missions.

"You can't work alone, which is something you see the one character doing in the movie a lot," Kruger says. "With the tools we use, and the amount of decisions that need to be made, working alone would get you in trouble in one way or another."


IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) are responsible for the majority of fatalities and severe injuries of American troops. -EOD

In most cases, Eberhard says radio-controlled robots are used to find the explosive, disarm it, or even detonate it.

"We'll do the best we can to eliminate the hazard, depending on the environment. Sometimes we just have to blow them up," Eberhard says.

Their job is unlike any job in the world. The two say there are times when a robot isn't enough, and EODs have to suit up.

Bomb suits can weigh up to 90 pounds, depending on if you connect a cooling system to it. In the dry, hot landscapes of Iraq and Afghanistan, temperatures inside the bomb suit can be stifling.

"It'll make you sweat," Eberhard says, "and it's always a relief to get off."

The suit is designed to take the brunt of a blast if an explosive were to detonate. Fragments, however, could still cut through the suit and injure or kill a technician.

"It's getting safer, but still there's always that one mistake that can either take limbs away or end your life," Kruger says.

Unfortunately, Airmen at Hill Air Force Base know how dangerous the job can be. In January of 2007, three Hill Air Force Base EODs were killed in Iraq. Timothy Weiner, Elizabeth Loncki and Daniel Miller died while investigating a car bomb that detonated. "It is dangerous when you think about it," Kruger says. "You're dealing with explosives that were designed to kill you."

"The folks who paid the ultimate sacrifice are always right there at the front of our minds and thoughts," Eberhard says. "We learn from their lessons. Unfortunately, it had a large price to that lesson, but we learn from it and we appreciate their sacrifices."

Eberhard's and Kruger's wives say they know their husband's jobs are dangerous, but they do their best not to dwell on it while they're deployed overseas.

"I don't think about it. I'm OK with it," says Breezy Eberhard.

"I just don't think you can think about it," says Lena Kruger. "You have to live day to day and just go about your own business, because if you do think about it all the time, it's just going to drive you crazy."

The word "crazy" is one that is often asked of EODs.

"I don't think I am," Kruger says, "but obviously there are people who think I am."

The danger is a big reason why EODs love their job, though, because once a bomb is found, disarming it means saving lives.

"We know where the hazards are, for the most part, and we can control how we respond to them," Eberhard says.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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Alex Cabrero

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