National Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Day is a United States observance held on the first Saturday in May. It honours members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have risked their lives in disposing explosives.
At HALO we benefit from strong relationships with EOD specialists of the U.S. Military, the research and development teams of the Department of Defense, and the State Department's unexploded ordnance (UXO) removal programmes. Former military EOD specialists bring their unique expertise to HALO's mission to assist civilian victims of explosive ordnance. The U.S. Army’s research and development program engages HALO in field testing innovative equipment to detect explosives in military arenas worldwide. The State Department’s UXO removal programs fund EOD work in many active and post-conflict zones, through the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.
The latest example of HALO’s EOD partnership with the U.S. is a man called David Chavez. He is HALO’s Technical Manager and Project Lead in Honduras, where he is setting up a U.S. Department of State funded programme to help local authorities control small arms and light weapons.
David, 32, originally from Texas, served in the U.S. Army for 12 years - eight of them as an EOD specialist. After training in explosives disposal at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, which all the U.S. services use for EOD training, David deployed to Germany, Egypt and Afghanistan. There, in Kandahar Province, he dealt with the huge number of improvised explosive devices that kill and maim not only military personnel but many, many local people.
Global casualties from landmines and IEDs - most of which are a kind of home-made landmine – rose to a ten-year high in 2016 because of the proliferation of IEDs in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Around 80 per cent of all casualties are civilians.
In 2016 David left the U.S. military and joined HALO after a short period working as a defense contractor. “I thought I could make a bigger impact by actually working on the ground,” he says. “Getting rid of weapons that cause death, crime and mayhem is a very good cause and I am excited to be a part of it.”
It’s the scale of impact that marks out the work of humanitarian EOD specialists from those still in the military, says John Montgomery, HALO’s global chief technical advisor. “The military clear a narrow gap through explosive ordnance so that the rest of a force can follow - they clear a path through. Humanitarian EOD clearance involves removing everything in the fields and villages, homes and schools, we clear the breadth of a community so that people can live without danger and their communities can become productive again.” In places like Afghanistan that means HALO teams dispose of around 2,000 items of explosive debris every month.
The similarities between military explosives disposal are more than the technical skills involved in dealing with unexploded bombs and IEDs. “There is a great deal about the leadership training the military gives you that ensures you approach EOD safety by accounting for every possible scenario. I am responsible for the safety of my people and have been trained to take on that responsibility. Every disposal scenario and country programme may be unique, but it is that overall responsibility to the people we are making safe that is the constant factor,” he says.
David’s ambition is to build sustainable systems for securing weapons and, eventually, controlling explosive ordnance in Honduras. “We’re going to build local capacity so that this work can carry on right into the future and sustainably make the country safer,” he says.
With U.S. leadership in the EOD field through Department of Defense and Department of State's programmes, David Chavez and other specialists can continue saving lives and restoring communities living with the dangers of explosives and stray ammunition.
Read about the difference HALO’s explosive ordnance programmes are making with the help of the US and other governments in: