Marine Corps Air Grond Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
He sat across from me in a classroom amongst 13 of his peers. He was singled out by the instructors to breakdown his life as an explosive ordnance disposal technician. He seemed nervous but when he spoke, he spoke clearly and fluently about the job that he continues to perform.
Staff Sgt. Casey Senn, an EOD technician aboard the Combat Center, finished his first enlistment as a combat cameraman and began his new life in 2006.
“I wasn’t fulfilled in my old job,” said Senn. “I didn’t feel like there was anything for me to learn anymore. EOD is an always-evolving and ever-changing field. You’re never going to reach your limit. There’s always something more you can do.”
He said it’s the best military occupational specialty in the Corps, like many Marines before have said. The smirk of accomplishment strewn across his face made his intent apparent. He believes it and I’m sure the rest of his peers feel the same.
Senn spoke about his family’s feelings about his current job, “They hate it. I’ve got three kids, Ashlyn, 9, Brayden, 6, and Kaitlin, 3. My oldest has become more aware but for the other two they’re too young to understand what’s going on. For my wife, it’s hard when I deploy.”
Like any Marine who wants to be an EOD technician, he had one enlistment under his belt, per Marine Corps Order 3571.2G, before changing fields. In 2006, Senn began the process to laterally move to the EOD field. It’s a voluntary military occupational specialty for Marines.
“I never had any problems with that,” Senn said about meeting the prerequisites to change his MOS. “You’ll know right away if most guys have an issue.”
EOD technicians are trained to handle many situations an enemy throws at them. It’s a small community and the risks are high.
The basic EOD course is about seven months long, said Senn, looking back almost six years to his days as a student.
He told me they threw so much at him as a student and that he had to be able to process things quickly and then move on to new subject matter. It made me think about him in-country making a decision that could affect the fate of another Marine.
“You don’t ever get overwhelmed. In my experience you get pissed off,” Senn joked. “Most of the time it’s just dealing with the on-scene unit that doesn’t know what’s going on or the local populace. You have to deal with them, security and deal with your job. It can just be a lot of stuff going on at once; you need to be able to delegate and task things out.”
Consequences are high but he assured me he’s never been scared in the moment. If anything, it’s when he takes a moment to reflect when things become real.
“I don’t think you’re going to find a more fulfilling job anywhere,” Senn continued. “It’s the amount of pride because of all the [training] we have to go through, all of the school we have, high level training that we do to stay on top of our game. Being operational and being integrated with grunts and keeping them out of harm’s way you get tangible results from the job. You see the devices [that can] kill people and you take them apart with your hands. You get instant gratification.”
Senn began to tell me about his first deployment as an EOD technician in 2007, just one year since his “lat move.” His first words about working with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, in Iraq were, “It was fun.”
During this timeframe, EOD technicians noticed a transition from conventional ordnance like 155mm rounds to improvised explosive devices that Marines are more familiar with during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“The first real crazy [IED] I had was about five days into my first deployment as a tech,” Senn said. “We had five IEDs at an intersection and we lost our robot that day. The robot ran over a tertiary IED and it blew the robot about 20 meters down the road.”
“It was interesting going to an IED and dealing with that and trying to stay on par with the changing tactics, techniques and procedures with the enemy,” Senn said. “It was adapting to what they were adapting to.”
Senn explained that when the Corps would come out with a technical advancement, like mine rollers or high armored vehicles like the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, the enemy would create a tactical way around those advancements.
“It was interesting to try and stay in the loop and bridge the technology gap with how we operate,” Senn said.
When I asked him about anything he’s learned since he became an EOD tech he laughed and said, “I don’t even know where to begin with that one.”
Senn plans to retire from the EOD field. His future plans aren’t set yet, but for now he just hopes to spend as much time as he can with his family.
“I don’t know if I’ll stay in an EOD-related field or not. I think I might transition into something a little less dangerous afterwards,” Senn said. “I’m trying to be really family oriented.”