On June 27th, two U.S. Navy explosive ordnance sailors received the Bronze Star for valor for clearing an underground headquarters compound that contained dozens of ISIS fighters.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Petty Officer Travis Holland of Colorado and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Petty Officer Christopher Greene of Arizona were crucial in turning the tide during the operation, and their actions saved numerous lives.
One of the award citations offers a glimpse of the intense action and the heroics of the two sailors. “While clearing the cave of improvised explosive threats,” it reads. “Petty Officer Greene’s element was engaged by 15-to-20 enemy fighters barricaded within the cave system. Without hesitation, he deliberately stepped in the line of fire at a critical time to shield his teammates from close range automatic weapon fire.”
The two sailors are assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11). However, during the action, they were attached to Special Operations Task Force-West—and most probably to a Navy SEALs platoon.
The award citation of Petty Officer Holland states that “Petty Officer Holland positioned himself in the open to shield his team from a potentially fatal blast, while also engaging the enemy combatants who were only three meters away. With disregard for his own safety, he repeatedly maneuvered directly in the line of enemy fire to shield his team.”
Captain Oscar Rojas, the Commodore of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1, said during the award ceremony that “the bronze stars placed upon our warfighter’s chests symbolize everything that is good about our nation.”
The ceremony was also notable because of where it took place: Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach, by a memorial of the unit’s fallen warriors. Captain Rojas used the opportunity to honor EODMU 11’s fallen. “Having this ceremony right in front of the memorial of our fallen,” he said, “is a sobering reminder of the business that we are in. To be able to say that we protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, those are not shallow words. Those are very powerful words.”
According to the Navy, EODMU 11 provides operational EOD support to conventional and special operations units to enable mission success. Their skillset covers a wide spectrum of ordnance-related tasks to include locating, identifying, neutralizing, exploiting, recovering, or disposing of any explosive ordnance in existence, to include chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.
Although not part of the Naval Special Warfare Command, Navy EOD operators are often attached to SEAL platoons, supporting the Navy’s commandos with their ordnance expertise. EOD training is arduous and lengthy. Both officer and enlisted candidates undergo a pipeline for approximately 80 weeks.
The Bronze Star with the “V” device is America’s fourth-highest award for valor under fire.