Schofield’s three-man team handles homegrown hazard
Story and photo by
Sgt. Marcus Fichtl
8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Three explosive ordnance disposal Soldiers from 8th Theater Sustainment Command’s 74th EOD Company overcame time and distance to allow residents in a Maui neighborhood to return safely to their homes following a bomb scare, Aug. 15.
Sgt. 1st Class Foster Folger, Staff Sgt. Joshua Pate and Spc. Robert Thomas — all from 1st Team, 3rd Platoon, 74th EOD Co., 303rd EOD Battalion, 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th TSC — investigated a suspected improvised explosive device and determined it to be nonexplosive, which allowed more than 36 nearby residents to return to their homes after eight hours of tension.
According to the Maui Police Department, a 40-year-old female discovered a black/silver box labeled “Boom Box” in her 16-year-old son’s closet at 12:50 p.m. Upon opening the box, she observed electronics, wiring and other objects, which she believed to be a homemade explosive device.
Maui police took a photo of the suspected explosive device, evacuated the area and contacted the 74th EOD Co., which is based here, but is capable of responding to any explosive hazard in the Pacific Rim and frequently supports civilian police departments.
“At 1:40 p.m., I received a phone call from the Maui Police Department that they had a suspicious package with a cylindrical object wrapped in blue tape with wires going from the cylindrical object to an electrical package,” said Pate, team leader.
EOD examined the photo sent by Maui police and deemed it suspicious enough to respond.
According to Capt. Dustin Flowers, commander, 74th EOD Co., a team will be notified, geared up and out the door within 30 minutes after receiving notification for any suspected emergency throughout the Hawaiian Island chain. However, as no explosive materials are prepositioned on Maui, the three-man team had to wait for a Coast Guard flight to carry them and their equipment, delaying arrival by six hours.
But, when they arrived, they hit the ground running.
“We arrived on scene at 7:42 p.m.,” Pate said. “By 8 p.m., I was in the bomb suit going into the house.”
Based on EOD procedure, the team leader always goes in first and assumes the initial risk, while teammates support and make sure everything is safe.
After Pate secured the potential IED, Thomas put on his suit, and together they used an X-ray device to determine the device was not an actual IED, but rather a hoax IED designed to look like a threat.
By 8:50 p.m., Maui police gave the “all clear,” and residents returned to their homes from a temporary shelter at a nearby gym.
“The Maui Police Department is very thankful for the assistance given by the U.S. Army EOD,” said Wayne Ibarra, public information officer, Maui Police Department. “As in the past, the U.S. Army EOD has always responded to the needs of our department during situations that require explosive detection or disposal capabilities.”
During the course of the investigation, police received information on the whereabouts of the complainant’s son. At about 4:43 p.m., police located the juvenile at another residence in Wailuku and arrested him for “Terroristic Threatening I.” He was later released to his foster family, per Family Court.
While this emergency turned out to be a hoax, the stresses, particularly for the families of the EOD Soldiers, remain real.
“It’s hard on my wife,” Pate said. “She hasn’t gotten used to me being in charge and assuming all the risk, but she’s getting better.”
As the 74th EOD acts as the bomb squad for the entire Pacific Rim, its expertise does not go unnoticed or un-thanked, especially by agencies or regions that cannot afford an organic team of its own.
“Every time we take care of any explosive threat, we’ve potentially saved lives,” said Folger, acting officer in charge.
And while many people attribute counter-IED work in Afghanistan with the EOD mission, Flowers said this event on Maui shows Soldiers are also necessary in a peacetime environment and deal with potential hazards as dangerous as any found in a war zone.