Driving down the dusty roads of Iraq or Afghanistan is a dangerous job. Service members need to maintain a combat mindset and keep their eyes out for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. If they don’t discover one before it’s too close, it can be lethal to themselves and their brothers or sisters in arms next to them.
When an IED is spotted, they call for explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, to come out and dispose of it safely. Then they are able to move around the battlefield and continue with their mission.
As a sergeant, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey McCullin made a lateral move from motor transportation, as a logistics vehicle system operator, to become an EOD technician.
“There were some of my junior Marines that got hit in IED strikes,” McCullin said. “I didn’t want to be one of those guys just driving down the road and then get hit and not know what it was about. I wanted to be one of those guys that jumped in and fixed that situation. I wanted to protect the force.”
Working on his tenth year in the EOD field, McCullin is the EOD officer-in-charge with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He said his primary role is to advise the MEU’s commanders on the proper employment of EOD assets.
“In general, we protect the force from the hazards presented by explosives,” McCullin said. “That covers the whole range of explosives, including nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional weapons as well.”
This is his third deployment with a MEU. He explained that at sea they support the Navy and are also a theater asset and can be pulled to support whoever needs EOD assistance; whether it be the battalion landing team, maritime raid force or out on the flight line.
McCullin said there’s no set way on how to do some of the work they do. Especially because IEDs are a custom job. In order to broaden their training procedures, they work with state, local and other government agencies.
“We integrate well with other EOD forces,” McCullin said. “Whether it’s Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force, we all go to the same EOD school, so we try to train as much as possible with them to get a different take on how they would approach certain items. We have to be able to adapt and improvise on the ground and sometimes an outer prospective of working with someone else will give you that edge you need.”
Recently, during the 15th MEU’s workup, McCullin said they joined Army and Air Force EOD to set up scenario-based training. They put out IEDs for each other to respond to.
“Towards the end of it, we integrated our teams; so we had an [Airman], [Soldier] and Marine all on the same EOD team and they worked together,” McCullin said. “That developed all our [tactics, techniques and procedures] and helped us grow as EOD techs as a whole.”
McCullin said he’s looking forward to doing just that during the 15th MEU’s deployment this year.
“Essentially, we are the Department of Defense’s bomb squad,” McCullin said. “I hope to link up with others, even a police bomb squad, to do some valid training.”
The EOD Marines will also continue to train and do drills with the MRF, BLT, and Navy while on ship. They also train on their own and continue to develop their skills so when they are needed they are able to help anyone who needs their assistance.
“We’re going to enable freedom of movement on battle field and we’re going to keep the force safe from explosive hazards,” McCullin said. “That’s the main reason we are essential to the mission.”
Article and images by Anna Albrecht, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, edited for context and format by CBRNe Central.