Let's not talk about coughing, not sleeping, and feeling like a train backed up over me fifteen times last night. Instead, let's talk about graduation...
I present to you, the EOD graduating class of March 11, 2011. These service personnel are now going to spend the next year in a further training in a variety of locations including Turkey, Washington state, and, of course, Japan. The military is quite brilliant (that sounds like a contradiction in terms) about training. For special technical schools, all branches train at one site. Thus, in this class, the Air Force, Marine, Army, and Navy are all represented. Sadly, the Navy EOD techs don't graduate with the rest of the class. They have a dive course to complete with the Navy before they are considered techs.
The ceremony is quite moving. Held at the EOD memorial commemorating all EOD service personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice at the "schoolhouse" campus, the ceremony is rich in tradition and symbolism. A short history is given of the EOD training. I found it particularly moving to learn that the first EOD tech and trainer had been overlooked for special forces because he had vision problems. However, as WWII reached intensity, he learned to disarm ordnances, and, ultimately, was enlisted by the U.S. military (following a brief sojourn with the Brits) to develop an EOD program. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't learn something was the message.
Each tech selects who will "pin" them -- someone who has trained them and knows them well. As the pinning program moves forward, the meaning of the EOD pin is read. Hugs, backslaps, and handshakes are part of the protocol. It is particularly moving to see stern-faced officers wipe tears from their eyes as they pin their graduate. These guys get very tight in this program and learn the meaning of teamwork.
Notice, too, that there are two females -- one Air Force and one Army -- in the class.They are rarer than hen's teeth and have overcome many odds to graduate this program. These young women were petite, yet, you could see the power and confidence in them. And, by the way, the fact that women are in this program keeps it from being designated "special forces." Sadly, women are still not permitted in special forces positions. I personally believe that if they can do the work, they have earned the right. However, the military lags behind in this ideology.
It was a bittersweet day -- full of pride and tears.