The Navy’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal Group 1 (EODGRU) departed Naval Air Station North Island Tuesday and headed for Baghdad. There, they will assume command of Joint Task Force Troy and manage all counter-improvised explosive device (IED) activities in Iraq. The group of about 25 sailors will be gone for one year, returning home next December, the deadline for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq.
“We’re going in to assume command of JTF Troy,” said Capt. Edward Eidson, commander of EODGRU-1. “We will be responsible for exercising command and control of counter IED forces throughout Iraq.”
This group will also be the first Navy brigade to command JTF Troy. They will oversee Army and Air Force EOD activities, as well as support and train Iraqi forces who will take over all counter-IED activities. Eidson said Iraq has already shown they are capable and will be ready to take the reins by the time U.S. forces leave.
According to Eidson, IEDs are made of whatever the insurgents can access. So they range from homemade to military-grade explosives.
Locating, disarming and disposing of them is certainly not a safe job. But, as the commander said, “Our mission there is critical to the long-term stability of that nation.”
His sailors are ready, too.
“We’ve been training for this mission now for over a year,” he said. “We’re prepared and we’re ready to go forward.”
Preparing to say goodbye is never easy though—especially when the deployment is for a whole year.
It is the first deployment for Petty Officer 3rd Class Corey Albright.
Albright, 21, said, “Leaving my wife is definitely the hardest thing you can do.” But, he thinks it is a privilege to be a part of the last crew in Iraq.
His wife, Jennifer Albright, has accepted the sacrifices that come with the duty. “It’s just something you have to do,” she said. “You’ve got to [experience] separation once in awhile. Someone has to do it.” As a college track and cross-country runner, she plans on finding support from her teammates.
Chief Donald Trink said goodbye to his wife, Sam Trink, and their son, Parker.
“My son now is 3, and he’ll be 4 by the time I come back, and that’s a big change when they’re young,” he said.
Still, Trink plans on keeping his son’s vivacious energy near. “We downloaded a lot of videos onto my laptop so I can watch those over and over again,” he said. The family will also Skype and use Facebook, which they used during their last deployment to stay in touch.
During the deployment, Sam Trink said she will stay busy. As for worrying about her husband’s safety, she kept it all in perspective.
“He could be here dealing with explosives and something could go wrong. If he’s jumping out of an airplane, the parachute could not open. Anything could happen, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s here or over there,” she said.
The Trinks told Parker, “Daddy’s going to work and it’s going to be for a very long time.”
When they told him daddy would be leaving on a very big plane, Parker got very excited to come see it. Still, when it came time to see his father walk onto the plane, the friendly and energetic Parker cried for him to come back.
As night fell on Coronado, the sailors of EODGRU-1—each one a father, or husband, or son leaving loved ones behind—boarded their plane to finish what was started in Iraq.