‘It’s just like going to work; you get used to it’
June 14, 2008
After six months in Iraq, Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Blount was one day shy of heading home. But as a bomb disposal technician, Blount didn’t have the luxury of thinking about tomorrow.
He had to stay focused on the job at hand. Still, home couldn’t have been far from his mind that day in July 2007, when an explosive detonated under his vehicle as he headed out on his last mission.
"You don’t know what’s hit you until it’s over. The first thing we did was ask if (everyone) was OK," Blount recalled. "I had dirt in my mouth which had risen off the floor of the truck. My ears rang a little for a few minutes, but we were all fine."
Just another day at the office for Blount, a native of Tampa, Fla., and a member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 based in Sigonella, Sicily.
That last day mirrored his first day of the deployment, when his unit was hit with a roadside bomb in January, luckily with the same results. "It’s just like going to work; you get used to it. You know your team, and you know your mission," Blount said. "I wouldn’t think about it much on my off time. I’d sleep, watch movies, read, etc…."
Blount conducted route clearing and dismount operations during his deployment. He received an Army Commendation medal with "V" device for a two-day period in which he identified two explosives prior to detonating and assisted with the capture of three insurgents directly linked to anti-Iraqi forces mortar cells. Throughout the operations, which took place primarily in Baghdad and Diyala province, Blount recalls falling under small arms and indirect fire from various positions.
In all, the 23-year-old senior technician completed 68 combat missions and disposed of 23 bombs. "We were just basically on call, a lot of waiting. I didn’t spend much time worrying. I knew that my wife worried about me and we talked whenever we could," Blount said.
With almost five years in the Navy, Blount considers himself a career sailor. Initially trained as a corpsman, he said the job description of the EOD community persuaded him to switch careers.
"When I was in corpsman school, I met someone whose brother was in EOD. The job description of diving, jumping and demolition was more appealing than corpsman," Blount said.
The EOD community is not very large. Created in 2006, there are only about 1,300 personnel with this particular designation, according to the Navy. The yearlong training course is intense. In addition to the physical training including deep-sea diving, and parachute jumps, EOD technicians are experts in many types of explosives including airborne, underwater and nuclear devices. The training, according to Blount, definitely prepared him for life in a war zone. But he said there’s no substitute for actual experience.
"Going there makes you more confident about doing your job," he said. "The training was great. I felt totally prepared."
That preparation and experience will come in handy. In late May, Blount was preparing for his next deployment, this time to Afghanistan. Along with his training, he said he draws strength from his wife, Elizabeth.
"She is my biggest supporter, and this will be our third deployment in three years. She handles them really well."
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Blount
Unit: Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8
Medal: Army Commendation medal with "V"
Earned: July 2007, Iraq