EOD members help save team chief

  • Published
  • By Sheila Rupp
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Members of explosive ordnance disposal teams have dangerous jobs, but those dangerous jobs are also very rewarding. Their training in explosives is important in combat situations and their wingman experiences proved to be a lifesaver for the team chief of a pair of deployed Team Kirtland EOD members.

Senior Airman Nick Worthington and Senior Airman William Zow, both from Kirtland's EOD shop, were deployed to Iraq as part of an EOD team this past summer. They were part of a three-man EOD team working in southern Baghdad that investigated suspicious devices that convoys encountered en route to their destination. They also helped to clear the way of improvised explosive devices for convoys.

During the deployment, the two Airmen experienced several brushes with death, though neither man was injured. They recall going into the site of a helicopter crash after a recovery team was disabled. Airman Zow said that the EOD team cleared approximately 10 IEDs on the road out to the site. The team says they secured the area and stayed there through the night facing mortar fire and rocket-propelled grenades. During the night, insurgents lined the road with more IEDs. In total, the EOD team spent more than 24 hours at the crash site and were out of batteries and explosives so another team was flown in to take over, says Airman Worthington.

In June 2006, the three-person EOD team of Airman Worthington, Airman Zow and their team chief, Master Sgt. Jeremy Henner were sent out on a routine mission. While on their way out to the mission to check on an IED call, a truck in their security detail was hit with an IED, and the EOD team turned around to help the vehicle, says Airman Worthington. While the team was inspecting the site of the explosion, a secondary IED went off and insurgents started firing on the team from a house nearby.

"At first I didn't even know they were shooting at us," said Airman Worthington. "They were firing on us for a long time, it seemed like it would never end. It must have been about 20 or 30 minutes."

Airman Worthington realized his team chief was severely injured and went to see what kind of injuries he had and provide any help he could. Airman Worthington evaluated Sergeant Henner's injuries and said he was leery to move Sergeant Henner too much because he believed that the team chief was suffering from a concussion and other serious injuries. "He got fragged pretty good in the leg and the arm, and his face got peppered," Airman Worthington said.

He says he provided basic care before the medics got on scene and were able to take over, which allowed him to join a firing line to keep the insurgents at bay until backup was on scene.

In an interview with the Delaware State News in November, Sergeant Henner credited Airman Worthington with covering him and pulling him to safety. "My buddy was able to engage in return fire, but he was reluctant to leave me. It was impressive, amazing to see him and the Army security folks," Sergeant Henner told Gwen Guerke of the Delaware State News in the November interview.

Only three people were able to return fire and Airman Worthington was able to advance up to a canal embankment 20 to 30 meters from the house to return fire.

Sergeant Henner was awarded the Purple Heart Aug. 24 at Dover AFB, Del., his home station. Two members of the security team were killed in action.

Both Airman Worthington and Airman Zow consider themselves extremely lucky to have not been injured during their deployment, despite several close calls, including their vehicle getting blown up twice. They say they are happy to be back at Kirtland, but are ready to go where duty takes them.