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EOD Safety Day
David Luxton, Defense Centers of Excellence National Center for Tele Health and Technology Research psychologist and program manager, gives a briefing on the importance of recognizing the signs of suicide during Explosive Ordnance Disposal Safety Day on Nov. 19, 2010, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman Leah Young)
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Joint Base Lewis-McChord holds EOD Safety Day; focuses on overall health

Posted 11/23/2010   Updated 11/24/2010 Email story   Print story


by Airman Leah Young
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

11/23/2010 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- The 627th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit conducted a safety day here Nov. 19 to give the unit an opportunity to focus on compliance with standard operating procedures; tactics, techniques and procedures, and examine the overall health of the career field.

"The annual Explosive Ordnance Disposal Safety Day is not just a day to check equipment and procedures," said Lt. Col. John Frey, 627th CES Commander. "It is a day for the technicians to pause and reflect on their accomplishments and sacrifices."

Since 2005, 13 EOD Airmen have paid the ultimate sacrifice during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and eight others have been seriously injured. The safety day gave leaders a chance to take time to facilitate a discussion about the realities of overseas contingency operations. They also discussed the residual effects of combat stress.

One of the most highlighted topics included mental health, focusing on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Combat Stress. The day consisted of informative briefings conducted by medical professionals.

The first speaker was David Luxton, Defense Centers of Excellence National Center for Tele Health and Technology Research Psychologist and Program Manager. According to Mr. Luxton, every military member should be well educated on how to identify and treat stress disorders. He briefed the group on suicide warning signs, preventative measures and appropriate treatment.

"The briefings exposed our younger Airmen to some of the complications they may face before and after deployment," said Staff Sgt. Mark Walker, 627th CES EOD Craftsman. "It equipped them with the tools to take with them overseas and to use for recovery."

During the second briefing, using a computer program called 'Second Life', Greg Reger, National Center for Tele health and Technology Psychologist, promoted the information in a way that he said would better reach the Airmen.

Although the program is not yet being used to treat PTSD, Mr. Reger explained it is a tool that will soon be utilized by psychologists to deliver information to their patients in an interesting way and treat symptoms of the disorder.

"It's important to pause, brainstorm and think about how we can help each other," said Tech. Sgt. Heidi Leon, 627th CES EOD Craftsman. "We all know how it feels to lose someone. These briefings helped us identify and treat the repercussions of such a loss."

As well as educate Airmen who have already faced the symptoms of these disorders, the safety day better prepared those who have not yet deployed.

"Today was beneficial because I learned and now understand the importance of treating Combat Stress before it develops into something worse," said Airman 1st Class Mark Stafford, 627th CES EOD Technician. "I feel like I'm better prepared to face the symptoms and treat them."

Everyone from first term airmen to 15-year master sergeants gained information from EOD Safety Day. The squadron was able to come together and agree that without healthy Airmen, completing the mission would not be possible.

"It is a reaffirmation of 'People First, Mission Always'," said Colonel Frey. "Without the front line warriors protecting personnel and resources, many of our successes in Iraq and Afghanistan would not be possible."

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