In Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers have displayed countless acts of courage, and demonstrated immeasurable heroism. Through his autobiography, RED ONE: A Bomb Disposal Expert on the Front Line, Captain Kevin Ivison reminds us that courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to overcome it, and heroism occurs not only during one’s service, but in the sacrifices endured long after it.
Ivision, a British Ammunition Technical Officer or “ATO” – the UK’s term for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians – deployed for four months to Northern Ireland followed by four months in Al Amarah, Iraq. While there, he and his unit defused improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by day and endured indirect fire by night.
An IED attack against a convoy of paratroopers at a spot in Al Amarah the Brits called “Red One” became the defining moment in Ivision’s deployment. He was called to render safe a “secondary,” an explosive formed penetrator (EFP) that was not triggered, within sight of two fallen Paras before the force could safely extract. He did so while an angry mob threw rocks at the security cordon and a sniper took shots at them. To make matters worse, his EOD robot and the team’s electronic jamming equipment were inoperable. Ivision defused the IED with his wits alone. He was subsequently awarded the George Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross.
Upon returning to his parent command, Ivision soon discovered that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder or “PTSD.” His initial cries for help, including reaching out to medical personnel, went unheeded. As a result, his struggle back to normalcy was almost as arduous as combat on Red One…and maybe a continuation of it.
This is the one of the rawest books about the war in Iraq from a man who served there in the most dangerous of professions. It is recommended reading for all who serve in combat arms, and especially those who are or seek to be disposaleers.