When American and coalition troops rolled into Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, they quickly began doing exactly what any military playbook said they should do, leveraging their superior firepower and aerial superiority into a string of quick victories. In both engagements, coalition forces quickly hammered conventional military threats into submission and settled into a long role of occupation and rebuilding. That’s when the bombs started going off.
Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, were claiming casualties and leveling a battlefield that once sloped steeply in the coalition’s favor. The IED quickly emerged as the insurgency’s weapon of choice and the single biggest killer of U.S. troops. The military needed a new set of 21st-century tools to help stop the bleeding and mitigate the IED threat. And that’s exactly what it got.
Click to launch the photo gallery
On its two biggest fronts, the U.S. military and its allies found themselves battling an enemy unbound by normal conventions of war and unrelenting in its creativity. Insurgent fighters were turning just about anything--jerry cans, surplus artillery shells, even pressure cookers and other household appliances--into remotely detonated land mines capable of turning an unarmored Humvee into twisted, charred wreckage. The enemy didn’t even have to show up to the battle. By 2007 the “roadside bomb” was responsible for well more than half the coalition deaths in Iraq.
Military conflicts have historically served as effective technology accelerators as the threat of casualties drives military planners to solve problems as quickly as possible. In Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, the story is no different. Today, ten years after boots first hit the ground in Afghanistan, the military’s technological toolbox has been drastically transformed by the landscape of the last decade, shaped largely by the persistent IED threat. And perhaps no job in the U.S. military has been reshaped by technology quite like Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).