In a ceremony held last Wednesday aboard Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Jeffrey Thomas was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism in the line of duty during a ten-hour firefight against militants from the Islamic State, on October 20th and 21st, 2016.

“Today we recognize the heroic actions of individuals and the legacy of their teammates. This recognition is well deserved, and it’s an acknowledgment of bravery, training, and dedication to team and country,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran told a crowd gathered to honor Thomas and his fellow sailors.

As Thomas and his element conducted combined clearance operations in the embattled nation last October, their lead vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device, mortally wounding one of his teammates.  Thomas promptly exited his vehicle and set about sweeping the area for other potential explosive devices while taking enemy mortar and small arms fire.  His immediate action and disregard for his own safety in the face of overwhelming odds allowed medics to maneuver into position to treat Thomas’s wounded teammate.

Throughout the following ten hours, Thomas maneuvered through continued small arms fire, as well as attacks from rocket-propelled grenades to continue to engage the enemy while identifying a potential route out of the mine field.  His efforts ultimately proved successful, as Thomas was able to clear a path through enemy positions and explosive devices to lead his team out of harm’s way and to the medical evacuation zone.

“No one that was present on the 20th of October knew better than Jeff [Thomas] the dangers he was facing,” said Cmdr. Geoff Townsend, commanding officer of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3.

After the EOD supervisor, a friend and mentor, was mortally wounded Jeff knowingly exposed himself to hazards in order to protect the lives of his teammates and brothers in arms, and secure a MEDEVAC for his wounded teammate. His actions that day saved the lives of his teammates and exceeded all measures of selflessness and devotion to his country.”

The ceremony, held on a beautiful day in Southern California, also included the presentation of the Bronze Star with a Combat “V” to Lt. Morgan Dahl, as well as the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with Combat Distinguishing Device) to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Senior Chief Jon Hamm.

U.S. Navy Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units are tasked with identifying, defusing, or destroying enemy explosives to allow special operations and conventional forces access to areas otherwise denied by the looming threat of IEDs and similar hazards.