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NEWS | Sept. 16, 2019

Army Guard EOD Soldier disarms life’s challenges

By Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - Father. Husband. Community volunteer. Yale Student. Army National Guard member.

Army Staff Sgt. William Eisenhart, the explosive ordnance disposal operations noncommissioned officer in charge with the Army National Guard's operations directorate, is all those things, which often leaves him little downtime.

"It's always been a time management situation," said Eisenhart, of his various endeavors.

His journey to mastering multi-tasking started in the Navy, where he had hopes of becoming a surface warfare officer. Eisenhart's superiors, however, thought his capabilities would better serve the naval EOD community, which turned out to be to his liking.

"EOD is chess in a game of checkers," he said. "You got to analyze the battlespace, and you got to figure out what the bomber would do. How would they place an improvised explosive device? Is it a lure, or just a basic IED [improvised explosive device] they left out there?"

Eisenhart said that while disarming explosives proved to be exhilarating, its purpose of saving lives was never lost on him.

"The first thing you learn about in EOD is the protection of personnel," he said. "It's one of our basic tenets."

After a decade that included several deployments, Eisenhart left the Navy and then worked as a defense contractor. But something was amiss. The longing to wear a military uniform wouldn't subside.

"I had gravitated to the whole concept of service over self," Eisenhart said.

A friend tuned him into the West Virginia Army National Guard's 753rd Ordnance Company, which he found to be a good fit and enlisted. His time seeing the destruction left from roadside bombs, however, made him want to do something that combined his EOD background and serve in a medical capacity.

Previously, Eisenhart had been an emergency medical technician at a local volunteer fire department.

"[I] liked the work, and it definitely fell in line with what I was doing as an EOD guy as well," he said.

Eventually, he transitioned to the West Virginia Army Guard's 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, and completed Special Forces medic training at the age of 43.

"It was painful and I definitely had to look after my body," Eisenhart said, adding he had to ensure he recovered from the physical strain just as quickly as the younger trainees.

However, the bigger challenge was learning his role and skills as a medic on a Special Forces team, which he said was more challenging than understanding how to disable roadside bombs.

"[The] ordnance item is only going to go off one way," Eisenhart said. Each device, he elaborated, is put together to follow a specific sequence to set it off. Different triggers and settings may be used, but the components all function in a certain, repeated manner. From there, it's a matter of determining how they are arranged in the specific device.

With medical treatment, response efforts sometimes aren't so cut and dry and can vary between individuals based on a variety of factors.

"The human body – there [are] constant variables changing and you [have] got to try to figure out what it's doing," he said.

Being a medic, Eisenhart said, also inspired him to do more community work, which includes volunteering for veteran's foundations, churches and teaching CPR to his daughter's Girl Scouts troop.

"[Being a medic] is not designed just for personnel at your unit or in a military setting," he said. "[I] owe it to civilians out there because they pay my salary and my expensive schools, and across the whole spectrum of my military career I feel they allowed me to serve them."

Serving others is something Eisenhart hopes to always impress upon his daughter – even when they see a motorist in trouble on the side of the road during their regular commute.

"I'll stop on the beltway and bring out my [medical] bag and ask people if they are okay," he said. "And I know my daughter can see that and she understands that service to others is an important thing, so I try to drive that home to her."

To expand his skill-set and maximize future opportunities to serve, Eisenhart said becoming a physician assistant seemed the next logical step. After researching various programs, he applied to the physician assistant program at Yale University. It seemed like a long shot, he said, but he persisted in attaining the academic requirements and hospital and patient-care hours needed to be considered.

"I never thought I'd be [part] of an Ivy League program," he said. "I am the first kid in my family to go to college and graduate, so for me to go from that point to Yale was stunning."

In January Eisenhart is set to begin full-time clinical rotations at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, as part of the Yale program.

Though a demanding program, Eisenhart said ultimately it will allow more family time, something he often missed out on after nearly 20 years of military service with numerous deployments, training exercises and schools.

It will also allow him to take part in other opportunities, such as volunteering with a group made up of former special operations medics who provide humanitarian assistance to areas in need throughout the world.

"Our job is to do exactly what we were taught in the military," he said, adding there's no better way to help than by providing aid and care where it's needed.

For Eisenhart, that service-above-self mentality is tied to life-lessons handed down from his mother, who said always to stay motivated and help people - especially when things become burdensome.

"I think we get stuck with the concept of 'me,'" he said, adding that helping people makes him "stronger as a human being."