Fire in the Hole! – Fire in the Hole! – Fire in the Hole!

Members of the Navy EOD 3 team perform a training exercise hunting for hidden bombs in Afghanistan. Credit: Wikipedia Encyclopedia

“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”—Chris Hedges

“Fire in the hole” is a warning that an explosive detonation in a confined space is imminent. It originated with miners, who needed to warn their fellows that a charge had been set.  The command was reduced to fire, while the full phrase fire in the hole became a general warning for the use of explosive weapons. It was subsequently adopted by the United States Army and Marines to give notice that a grenade or satchel charge was being tossed into a bunker, spider hole, or other enclosure.

“The origins of ‘fire in the hole’ lie deep in the history of perhaps the most dangerous civilian occupation on earth, underground coal mining.  For much of its history in the US, such mining has depended on the use of black powder or dynamite to loosen the rock.  When the charges had been placed, just before detonation, the cry ‘Fire in the hole!’ was a warning to miners to clear the area and prepare for the explosion.  Far from being an antiquated custom, the phrase is still legally required to be shouted in many states (Illinois mining regulations specify ‘The shot firer must give a loud, verbal warning such as ‘fire in the hole’ at least three (3) times before blasting’).  ‘Fire in the hole,’ like coal mining itself, is deadly serious business, which is why the current frivolous use of the phrase ticks me off.

‘Fire in the hole’ dates back at least to the early 20th century, and was adopted in the 1940s by military bomb disposal teams, as well as by soldiers tossing grenades into enclosed spaces (such as tunnels) where “blow-back” might be expected.  Interestingly, moonshiners in  Appalachia in the 1920s (many of whom were from mining communities) also shouted the phrase to warn of the approach of ‘revenuers’ (government agents), occasionally detonating sticks of dynamite for emphasis.”

This warning is crucial to the bomb hunters in the war in Afghanistan—it’s the difference between life and death.  For the last five day’s I’ve been watching an excruciating documentary TV series which profiles the real-life soliders who put their lives on the line as members of the U.S. military EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit stationed in one of the most hostile environments in the world—you’ve guessed it—Afghanistan.

This highly specialized unit takes care of disarming or destroying improvised explosive devices (IED) from the Taliban.  Outside the wire in war-torn Afghanistan, helmet and body mounted cameras and state-of-the-art robotics bring you a never before seen look at the intensity of war.

The name of the documentary is “Bomb Patrol-Afghanistan” premiered in the United States on October 25, 2011.  The series follows members of the United States Navy EOD unit (Platoon 3-4-2) as they hunt for and dismantle explosives in the Kunduz Province in Afghanistan.  This documentary reminded me of The Hurt Locker, a 2008 American war film about a three-man Explosive Ordnance Disposal (bomb disposal) team during the Iraq War.

This is a rare opportunity to showcase the work of the courageous men and women on the front lines, and witness the real-life drama, teamwork, danger and triumph that goes along with this specialized job.  In this war documentary you will see real-life heroes putting their lives on the line as they go through what, for them, is just another day at the office.

I’m streaming the seventeen-episode documentary in Panama via Netflix in High Definition, which displays full bright colors and sharp crisp pictures on the computer screen. The cast of the documentary consist of:

  • Sam Durhan – Petty Officer First Class, 29
  • Brad Penley – Liutenent jg, 26
  • Matt Rayl – Petty Officer Second Class, 34
  • Jeremy Stain – Petty Officer First Class, 27
  • Ricky Thibeault – Petty Officer First Class, 35

I tip my hat to these young soldiers who flirt with death every single day of their lives while serving in the scorched sands of Afghanistan.  It takes a special breed of people to do this kind of work—you have to be addicted to war.  I couldn’t explain it any other way.

Below is a YouTube video which portrays what it is like to hunt for bombs in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.  It’s a nerve wrecking experience to watch these guys carry on their work. The title of the video is “Bomb Hunters Afghanistan.”

Good Day!


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