SOUTH FORK, Colo. – When you’ve got spent a lot time on military-related social media platforms, you’ve most likely seen a number of the memes that includes a seasoned Army sergeant main with a Grasp Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge and Fight Infantry Badge.
The Army EOD technician behind these memes is retired Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining, one of many founding members of the first Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Airborne) and one of many unit’s first EOD technicians.
The rationale his Army profession has gained a lot consideration is as a result of Vining has participated in most of the American army operations that outlined the latter a part of the twentieth century, as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician and an elite Special Forces operator.
Rising up in Howard Metropolis, Michigan, Vining was fascinated about science and mountaineering. He obtained chemistry units for Christmas yearly and earned the grand prize in a highschool science truthful for a Wilson Cloud Chamber. Vining was additionally a member of the Science Membership and Chess Membership and took part in wrestling and observe.
Vining then watched a film that modified the trajectory of his life.
“I noticed a World Conflict II film a few British soldier disarming a big German bomb in an underground chamber in London, England,” Vining mentioned. “I assumed, wow, that should take lots to disarm a big ticking bomb.”
At 17, not lengthy after the Tet Offensive within the Vietnam Conflict, Vining went to an Army recruiting workplace and signed as much as be an ammunition renovation specialist with the plan of volunteering for EOD as quickly as attainable. After graduating from fundamental coaching camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he went to Ammunition Renovation Faculty on Redstone Arsenal, the place he discovered how you can destroy unserviceable Code H ammunition throughout a course that was taught by EOD technicians.
He attended EOD coaching on Fort McClellan and Indian Head, Maryland, and graduated in Might 1969.
Whereas serving with the Technical Escort Unit at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam and he spent 11 months with the 99th Ordnance Detachment (EOD) in Phuoc Vinh, Vietnam, in an space west of Saigon and close to the Cambodia border.
Two of essentially the most memorable EOD operations of his profession occurred in 1970 when he participated within the destruction of the Rock Island East and Warehouse Hill enemy weapons and ammunition caches in Cambodia.
Vining was a part of the seven-man Army EOD staff that supported the first Cavalry Division mission to safe and destroy the most important weapons and ammunition cache found throughout the U.S. army’s involvement within the Vietnam Conflict.
Named “Rock Island East” after the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, the enemy weapons cache had 932 particular person weapons and 85 crew-served weapons in addition to 7,079,694 small arms and machine gun rounds. The enemy cache additionally contained nearly a thousand rounds of 85mm artillery shells that have been used for the D-44 howitzer and the T-34 tank.
Vining and the EOD techs needed to dodge enemy fireplace and endure biting crimson ants whereas engaged on the cache. After organising “scare prices” to maintain enemy forces out of the safety perimeter, Vining made it on the helicopter in time to look at the explosion and see the mushroom cloud that was seen from 50 miles away. The seven Army EOD technicians at Rock Island East used 300 instances of C4 explosives to destroy 327 tons of enemy munitions.
Throughout the operation to grab the cache web site, 10 American Troopers died and 20 have been injured.
Later on the Warehouse Hill operation in Cambodia, the EOD staff needed to disarm booby traps and crawl into underground tunnels to put C4 explosives on 14 cache websites. Vining needed to cope with massive cave crickets, toxic centipedes, spiders, bats and scorpions within the slender tunnels. The groups used 120 instances of C4 explosives to destroy tons of of hundreds of enemy rounds.
After finishing his tour in Vietnam, Vining left the Army and returned residence to Michigan. He acquired a job at a plant that stamped out automotive physique elements for Ford Motor Firm after which grew to become the lead worker on the third shift of the most important press within the plant, a 500-ton press.
“Though it was superb pay, I didn’t see myself doing this for 20 to 30 years,” Vining mentioned. “In October of 1973, I noticed my Army recruiter and requested to return into the Army.”
The Army recruiter instructed Vining that he must function an EOD technician once more, which was precisely what he wished. He was assigned to the 63rd Ordnance Detachment (EOD) on Fort Leonard Wooden, Missouri.
Vining was serving on a U.S. Secret Service help mission when his EOD supervisor, Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Ray Foster Sr., was killed by an improvised explosive system on the Quincy Compressor Division Plant in Illinois, in 1976. Afterward, Vining thought it was time for a change.
“I made a decision to take Emergency Medical Technician coaching and following that I made a decision to volunteer to be a Special Forces medic,” Vining mentioned. “I used to be getting out of EOD when my management sergeant main instructed me that they have been forming a brand new Special Forces group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and that they have been on the lookout for six EOD techs.”
Vining known as the quantity and flew to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for an interview with Col. “Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith, the founding father of the first Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. Beckwith envisioned the idea that the Army ought to have a counterterrorism unit just like the British Particular Air Service.
“Two weeks later, I used to be considered one of 4 Army EOD techs to begin the Operator Coaching Course 1,” Vining mentioned. “Solely two of us made it via. The second particular person was (retired Sgt. Maj.) Dennis E. Wolfe.”
One of many unit’s first operations was the clandestine mission to rescue 53 American hostages on the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Often called Operation Eagle Claw, the rescue mission was canceled after the lack of three helicopters throughout a sandstorm on the staging web site often known as Desert One. Whereas the plane have been leaving the Desert One staging space, a RH-53D helicopter crashed into the transport plane that Vining and his staff was on.
The helicopter rotor chopped into the highest of the fuel-laden plane and a fireball shot by Vining and his staff. Because the EC-130E “Bladder Chicken” was engulfed in flames and munitions cooked off round them, Vining and his teammates made it off the plane. Vining and his staff acquired on one other plane with defective touchdown gear and simply sufficient gas to make it throughout the water to security.
Throughout the Desert One plane collision, eight American troops have been killed and each plane have been destroyed.
Joint Particular Operations Command was created because of the investigation that adopted the ill-fated rescue mission.
In October 1983 throughout Operation Pressing Fury, when U.S. forces invaded the Caribbean Island of Grenada following the pro-Cuban coup there, Vining was on a rescue staff despatched to free political prisoners on the Richmond Hill Jail.
His Black Hawk helicopter got here beneath intense enemy anti-aircraft fireplace on method to the jail facility and the mission needed to be delayed.
The political prisoners have been launched earlier than a second mission was launched.
After seven years of serving with distinction in Delta Pressure, Vining accepted an task with the 176th Ordnance Detachment (EOD) on Fort Richardson, Alaska. He made the transfer to be extra promotable inside the EOD group and to be near the mountains of the forty ninth state.
Whereas in Alaska, he maintained his proficiency for EOD missions and later got here again to twice climb the 20,310-foot Mount Denali, the best mountain in North America.
Inside one 12 months, he was again on the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, the place he would serve in Operation Desert Storm. Though his EOD duties didn’t change, Vining switched to infantry throughout this time to make himself extra promotable inside the elite Special Forces unit.
Throughout this second 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta tour, Vining additionally participated in Operation Pocket Planner throughout a Federal Penitentiary jail riot in Atlanta in 1987.
Vining would later serve on the Joint Particular Operations Command as an train planner and J-3 Particular Plans sergeant main. He was the Joint Particular Operations Process Pressure senior enlisted adviser aboard the plane service USS America (CV 66) throughout Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti.
The sergeant main additionally served as an explosive investigator on the duty power that investigated the 1996 Khobar Tower bombing in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, and he used the teachings discovered from that assault to assist hardened U.S. installations world wide.
Throughout practically three a long time in uniform, Vining earned the Fight Infantry Badge, Grasp Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge, Parachutist Badge, Army Free Fall Parachutist Badge and Austrian Police Excessive Alpine “Gendarmerie-Hochalpinist” Badge.
Vining racked up an enormous stack of medals and ribbons that embrace the Legion of Advantage Medal, Bronze Star Medal, two Protection Meritorious Service Medals, Army Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, two Joint Service Achievement Medals and the Army Achievement Medal. He additionally earned his bachelor’s in sociology from the College of the State of New York.
Vining mentioned he was glad when the Army established the twenty eighth Ordnance Firm (EOD) (Airborne) to help Army Ranger and Special Forces missions world wide, in addition to the 2 Airborne Platoons of the 722nd Ordnance Firm (EOD) and 767th Ordnance Firm (EOD) to help the 82nd Airborne Division’s Speedy Response Pressure mission.
The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based firms are all a part of 192nd EOD Battalion, 52nd EOD Group and twentieth Chemical, Organic, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. army’s premier all hazards command.
Vining mentioned that the Kirtland Air Pressure Base New Mexico-headquartered twenty first Ordnance Firm (EOD WMD) was one other welcome addition to the U.S. Army EOD models. The extremely specialised firm is a part of the 71st EOD Group and twentieth CBRNE Command.
From 19 bases in 16 states, Troopers and Army civilians from twentieth CBRNE Command tackle the world’s most harmful hazards in help of joint, interagency and allied operations.
“In my time, Army EOD was seen as fight service help, however in actuality, Army EOD is fight help and has at all times been that means and which means supporting Particular Operations and Airborne forces,” Vining mentioned.
He mentioned the important thing to success within the EOD occupation is noncommissioned officer management and mentorship.
“Mentorship is among the duties of a senior NCO,” he mentioned.
The Army EOD group marked its eightieth anniversary in 2022 and NCOs have performed a vital function within the EOD occupation since its inception. Led by noncommissioned officers, EOD groups typically serve on their very own in austere environments, overlaying huge operational areas.
Vining additionally inspired EOD techs to hunt assist for each the seen and unseen scars of battle that include the occupation.
“I imagine should you spend a profession in EOD that you’ll witness extreme accidents and demise,” he mentioned. “EOD is an inherently harmful profession however it is usually a really rewarding profession figuring out you’ve eradicated a hazardous scenario.
“If you’re affected by occasions that you just have been concerned in, you aren’t alone in coping with this sort of trauma. I encourage you to open up and simply discuss it to a fellow EOD tech or an EOD veteran. From World Conflict II to the current, we’ve all witnessed the horrors of battle and even the damaging job we do in peacetime.”
In January 1999, Vining retired from the Army and married his spouse Donna Ikenberry, a mountaineering guidebook creator, skilled wildlife photographer and freelance photojournalist. They have been engaged on the high of Mount Rainer in Washington and exchanged wedding ceremony vows on Mauna Kea, the best mountain in Hawaii.
At present, they dwell collectively in South Fork, Colorado, the place Vining continues to get pleasure from spelunking, snowboarding, mountaineering and mountaineering. He additionally stays energetic within the veterans group.
Vining was inducted into the Ordnance Corps Corridor of Fame in 2018.
When he hung up his extremely adorned uniform after practically three a long time of service, Vining mentioned he by no means knew that his storied profession would later launch a tidal wave of memes.
“I have no idea how any of the memes acquired began,” Vining mentioned. “Certainly one of my grandchildren noticed that somebody even did a Pokémon card on me.”