Retired Military Lt. Col. John Culp walks the streets of Kyiv sporting physique armor and searching for unexploded ordnance left behind from Russian assaults on the town. He picks up and strikes shells and removes fuses, working alongside bomb technicians from the explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, crew of the Nationwide Police of Ukraine.
When Culp arrived in Ukraine in early April, he anticipated to initially help from behind the scenes, however he was ready to place his EOD background to make use of. In any case, that background is what introduced him the greater than 5,000 miles away from residence to a battle zone. The retired particular forces officer and EOD tech is volunteering with the group Bomb Techs With out Borders, or BTWOB, a 501(c)(3) based in 2018 “to forestall casualties brought on by landmines, IEDs, and different explosive remnants of battle.”
“Are you able to think about being shelled day and night time and possibly 20% of the ordnance not exploding?” Culp mentioned. “That’s precisely the state of affairs they’ve right here [in Ukraine].”
Culp, a member of MOAA’s Western North Carolina Chapter, related with BTWOB after realizing he wished to do one thing to assist.
“I used to be watching a video of some guys dismantle a bomb by hand, and I immediately had this aha second,” he mentioned. “I mentioned, ‘I can add to that.’ I’m in all probability not a terrific asset on the infantry battlefield. Once you weigh me down with armor and weapons and a helmet … I in all probability wouldn’t final. I’m in fairly good condition … for 69 years outdated, however let’s be life like.”
His background, nonetheless, was one thing he thought might make a distinction. Previous to receiving his fee in 1978 and serving a profession primarily in particular forces, Culp served as an EOD tech. He accomplished extra EOD coaching earlier than serving as a missile and organic and chemical weapons inspector with the United Nations Particular Fee in Iraq. After retiring from the Military, he labored within the explosives program for a federal company for 15 years, throughout which he educated international EOD items.
“That was actually the place I believed I might add one thing to the combo right here,” Culp mentioned. “As a result of, though my technical experience by way of fashionable EOD instruments and issues will not be as present … I’ve one thing that not everyone else has, which is loads of expertise working for international EOD groups on their turf, attempting to get them to work collectively, and attempting to maneuver their stage of experience up.”
As BTWOB nation coordinator in Ukraine, Culp is working with a colleague to arrange EOD coaching within the nation by the top of Might to show three classes: identification and flagging of ordnance, EOD technicians, and EOD supervisors.
“[The National Police] have a really sturdy EOD construction, however they don’t have sufficient [manpower],” he mentioned. “[The training] will enable them to develop quickly as soon as they’ve some extra personnel.”
To perform this, funding is essential. It can enable for extra EOD technicians to journey to Ukraine to help in addition to replenish the provision of wanted instruments, which Culp says are getting used quickly for safing and destroying ordinance.
Assist on the homefront
Again residence in North Carolina, Culp has the help of his household and associates, together with his spouse, Donna, a former Air Power captain who serves as president of the Western North Carolina Chapter of MOAA.
Donna is elevating funds to help BTWOB, and the chapter not too long ago held a fundraiser for the Moldova World Youngsters’s Fund, which was fashioned by a member of the chapter 20 years in the past and has diverted all its efforts to supporting Ukrainian refugees.
“I’m pleased with John for following his conviction to ‘do one thing’ to assist the folks of Ukraine,” Donna mentioned. “From the second I noticed he was severe about volunteering with Bomb Techs With out Borders and was able to go to Ukraine, I pushed apart any egocentric emotions I had, and we set about getting him able to go. Figuring out what expertise he brings to the desk as a bomb tech and understanding bomb techs final mission is that of disarming all method of threatening ordnance, I used to be able to help him. He’s that type of man. John, like all bomb techs, possess a set of expertise that’s an artwork and a science and, notably on this case, is humanitarian to the core. I respect that.”
Donna mentioned since phrase has unfold about what John is doing, she has met quite a few folks from Ukraine or individuals who have household there, together with a younger man working in her native packing and delivery retailer. She not too long ago went into that retailer whereas on a video name with John and turned the telephone round so he might have a fast chat with some folks in there.
“One of many younger males behind the counter was all smiles as he defined he has household in Ukraine and personally thanked John for what he’s doing over there,” Donna mentioned.
“I’m pleased with him, and what he and all of the bomb techs are doing to assist Ukrainians reclaim their lives, properties, and communities.”
‘Everyone can spare a dime or two’
Culp has given himself a 90-day timeline for his mission in Ukraine. He mentioned, by then, he expects he’ll be prepared for a break. However he feels grateful he is ready to be lend his experience.
“Not everyone is ready or bodily prepared to come back over right here and supply bodily help,” he mentioned. “I’m lucky to really feel like I had one thing technical to supply and that my physique remains to be in adequate form to come back over and really do it. Not everyone goes to really feel that manner. Not everyone can go … I’m not encouraging a wash of retired officers to come back flying to Ukraine.”
He does, nonetheless, encourage his fellow MOAA members to contribute to humanitarian organizations supporting Ukrainians. “Everyone can spare a dime or two,” he mentioned.
For Culp, volunteering in Ukraine feels nearly private. “There have been numerous guys like me within the Fulda Hole able to face the Russian invasion of Germany,” he mentioned. “And it by no means occurred, and now Ukraine is taking that hit. And I actually really feel in a manner that they’re taking the hit that we had been all anticipating. With all of NATO and all our forces, we had been anticipating to take that hit within the Fulda Hole, and it by no means got here. In a manner, Ukraine is combating our battle.
“I felt like I had to assist,” he mentioned. “… I felt convicted.”
Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She beforehand served on the editorial crew of Army Officer Journal for 9 years.