By Army Sgt. Rodney Foliente
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 12, 2009 - 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. Navy Lt. Jonathan Kehoe, commander, Platoon 602, 63rd Battalion, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobilization Unit 6, based out of Little Creek, Va., and attached to the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, decided to run here Feb. 2 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.
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," said Kehoe, who comes from Leadville, Colo. "The EOD memorial celebrates the lives of [EOD members] who've made the ultimate sacrifice to bring the freedom that [many people] 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 built in 1999 and features the names of 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.
Members of the 8th Iraqi Army Division's EOD team were invited to the event as the guests of honor, and they cheered Kehoe on with the rest of the crowd. One Iraqi soldier served as an official timer, and others even ran part of the mile to show their support and encouragement.
The U.S. and Iraqi EOD teams have a great relationship, Kehoe said. Together, they've detonated a dozen or more explosive devices since Kehoe's unit arrived in 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 how to do their jobs better for their own safety as well as that of their co-workers and civilians.
"I've been very impressed with them and their ability to do EOD," he said. They're professionals, and the 8th Iraqi Army [EOD team] is the team that all other army units are looking to as an example of where they need to be."
Kehoe said he 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," Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Young, of Platoon 602, said.
Now, it's just a matter of whether the Guinness World Records will accept the record, said Kehoe, who already holds one record for the fastest mile while carrying an egg on a spoon. Either way, he said, 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," he said.
(Army Sgt. Rodney Foliente serves in the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)