Tuesday, December 29, 2009
No one can doubt the individual courage required to walk down a road towards a bomb, but it is the collective courage of British bomb disposal teams in Afghanistan that The Times wishes to recognise this year in making 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Regiment our “Team of The Year”.
Through the summer months of 2009, ammunition technicians from 11 EOD, working with the specialist search teams of 33 Royal Engineers, disarmed and removed hundreds of Taleban roadside bombs across Helmand province. They took on a level of personal risk unimaginable in almost any other profession, and formed perhaps the Army’s most “mission critical” asset in Helmand. Each bomb disposal expert dealt with between 85 and 100 bombs during their six-month tour. Their job is exceptionally rare in frontline service. They risk their lives to save others.
In July I met the self-styled “Team Rainbow”, a bomb disposal unit that included Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid and Captain Dan Shepherd — both hugely respected technicians who would later be killed before the end of their tours. A slightly scruffy, modest demeanour and self-deprecating wit appeared to be the communal traits of the team. Their nom de guerre was an ironic homage to the hapless puppets Bungle, Zippy and George in the 1980s children’s television series Rainbow.
It was the height of Operation Panther’s Claw, the British summer offensive to secure Nad Ali District. The thermometer was close to 50C in the shadeless, foul-smelling compound that made up “Yellow 14”, one of a string of British outposts being attacked every day. A week later Team Rainbow would clear 120 devices along a two-mile stretch of road to allow the Light Dragoons and Mercian Regiment to move forward amid fierce close-quarter fighting.
For the rest of the article click here for the Times Online