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Airman 1st Class Madelyn Ottem
Staff Sgt. David Adkins, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron munitions NCO in charge, winds up the pitch to commemorate the opening of the season for the Vacaville National Little League March 2 in Arlington Park. Adkins was selected to open the season because of his actions in combat. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Madelyn Ottem)
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EOD maintains mental health

Posted 3/7/2012   Updated 3/7/2012 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Madelyn Ottem
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

3/7/2012 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- When a deployed Travis explosive ordnance disposal Airman heard the hollow boom and felt the rumble from the blast of a detonated improvised explosive device from his tent, he immediately sprang to action to secure the area with fellow EOD Airmen.

Through the chaos of radios calling for assistance and medics rushing to the explosion site, the EOD Airmen were able to maintain composure, gear up and follow their training procedures.

In recognition of such actions as well as his mental resilience in combat, Staff Sgt. David Adkins, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron munitions NCO in charge, threw the first pitch at the Vacaville National Little League opening night March 2 in Arlington Park.

Travis EOD Airmen such as Adkins are extensively trained to disable explosive weaponry commonly found in deployed locations and, in worst-case scenarios, reactively respond to detonated devices.

Once at the site, Adkins and EOD wingman Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Brickey successfully disabled another IED.

After the explosion area was cleared, Adkins and Brickey began clearing a space so the body of a Soldier who died from the blast could be medically evacuated. During this time, another Soldier stepped on a third IED at a close proximity.

"I don't really remember how things went after that," Adkins said.

Despite his haziness, a concussion, ruptured ear drum, exhaustion and dehydration, Adkins picked himself up and continued the mission by clearing the second IED blast.

"I kind of just focused on the task at hand and was able to take care of what I needed to do," he said.

While Adkins' tenacity proved to be great in combat, the traumatic events lead to a mental strain that remained present after the physical wounds healed.

"Once I was medically evacuated to Kandahar and had time to think about what happened, I had a rough time," he said. "I wasn't sleeping for more than a couple of hours a night. When I was sleeping, I was having nightmares."

Adkins recognized he needed help to sustain his mental health, he said. He sought and received the support needed from friends and family as well as professionals provided by the Air Force.

"I talked with a mental health doctor," Adkins said. "He helped me identify and work through some issues I was having."

As an Airman who experienced the immediate wounds and the lasting, stressful, mental harm caused by a traumatic combat event, he offered this advice to other Airmen who may find themselves in a similar situation.

"Don't push it away or keep it inside," he said. "You may have to force yourself to deal with things. Push yourself to figure things out."

Despite the harsh reality of a highly demanding career field which has a possibility of placing life and limb in danger, Adkins continues to serve the Air Force in the EOD field.

For Adkins, the inspiration and drive to become a mentally fit Airman have never been difficult to find.

"I really enjoy the job and the guys I get to work with," he said. "I know that we save lives doing what we do."

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