Center for International Stabilization & Recovery

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Brian Castner served as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer in the U.S. Air Force from 1999 to 2007, deploying to Iraq to command bomb disposal units in Balad and Kirkuk in 2005 and 2006. Joey Campagna/Courtesy of the author

Brian Castner arguably had one of the most nerve-wracking jobs in the U.S. military. He commanded two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in Iraq, where his team disabled roadside IEDs, investigated the aftermath of roadside car bombings and searched door to door to uncover bomb-makers at their homes.

"We would disassemble the IEDs when somebody else found them; we would go on route-clearance patrols with the engineers to trip the ambushes before they would hit our convoys; and we would do the post-blast investigations," Castner tellsĀ Fresh Air's Terry Gross. “Hopefully we would find weapons caches and dispose of a lot of this bulk ordnance before it would be used as an IED. … But there was no getting rid of all of the bombs.”

Sometimes those bombs would go off and Castner’s team would be responsible for investigating the gruesome aftermath.

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