CAMP ECHO, Iraq – Servicemembers and most runners probably would not be very impressed with a mile run in just over 10 minutes. But, add to the equation a 75-pound bomb suit made of stiff material, factor in the added heat from wearing it and add a pair of rubber over-boots; and it becomes a different story.
The heavy-plated bomb suit is designed to protect its wearer from an explosion. Its stiffness allows for enough dexterity and agility to accomplish their missions, but was never designed for fast, sustained movement.
The average person would not even think of running in one. Then again, the average person runs away from bombs, while explosive ordnance disposal team members are willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the welfare and safety of others. They can hardly be called average.
Navy Lt. Jonathan Kehoe, commander, Platoon 602, 63rd Battalion, EOD Mobilization Unit 6, based out of Little Creek, Va., and attached to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, decided to run for a Guinness World Record for the fastest mile in a bomb suit at Camp Echo.
With a crowd of their Iraqi EOD counterparts, servicemembers and U.S. contractors cheering him on, Kehoe completed the mile in 10 minutes and 13 seconds, beating his target time by almost three minutes. “We did some brainstorming and came up with the idea of setting the new Guinness World Record for the fastest one-mile bomb suit run. It’s just a matter of whether the Guinness World Records will accept it or not,” said Kehoe. He already holds one record for the fastest mile while carrying an egg on a spoon.
But the true purpose of the event was to draw a crowd for a fund-raiser benefitting the EOD Memorial and Scholarship Foundation and to commemorate fallen EOD members. “We as a team decided we wanted to do something special for the EOD memorial,” added Kehoe, who comes from Leadville, Colo. “The EOD memorial celebrates the lives of those (EOD members) who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice to bring the freedom that (many) take for granted every single day. It’s a tribute to them and our way to give back to their Families and show them that we’re thinking of them.” The memorial, located at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was constructed in 1999 and features the names of the fallen EOD members since the declaration of World War II.
Kehoe and the rest of his team said they were glad to be able to help raise funds and honor the fallen in their own way. Some of them commented that although remembering their deaths is a somber time, remembering their lives and their selfless dedication should be something to celebrate.
Since many would consider the type of people who do what they do as different, why not do something different to honor their fallen; hence, the bomb suit run.
Members of the 8th Iraqi Army Division EOD were invited to the event as the guests of honor. They cheered him on with the rest of the crowd, one served as an official timer and some even ran part of the mile to show their support and encouragement. The joint EOD teams have a great relationship, both working and professional, said Kehoe. Together they’ve detonated a dozen or more explosive devices since the unit arrived to Iraq three months ago.
Kehoe said he loves his job and is excited to be able to work with the Iraqi Security Forces and teach them the techniques to do their jobs better for their own safety as well as that of their co-workers and civilians. His unit has primarily been working with the 8th IA Div. EOD team and he really wanted to share the event with them.
“I’ve been very impressed with them and their ability to do EOD. They’re professionals and the 8th Iraqi Army (Div. EOD team) is the team that all other Army units are looking to as an example of where they need to be.”
Many of the IA EOD said they were honored to be a part of the event.
“It was awesome to get the IA EOD out here. We’re building a great deal of trust and developing good relationships,” said EOD 2 William Young, Plt. 602.
Kehoe trained for the event for two months, with EOD members from both nationalities encouraging and helping him during that time.
“People don’t realize how much physical training we go through as EOD. He made us all proud. With the crowd cheering and all, it gave him a big boost. He surpassed what I expected,” said Young, who hails from Belle Plaine, Kan.
Now it is just a matter of whether or not the Guinness World Records accepts his claim. Either way, to Kehoe it was worth it to continue building the relationships with the Iraqis, get the Camp Echo residents out to honor the fallen EOD members and earn money for the memorial and scholarship funds.
“I just wanted to tell the family members of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice that we pray for you every day and we can never do enough to thank you,” finished Kehoe.
By Sgt. Rodney Foliente