UCMJ Charges: EOD Tech Set Off Bombs on US Base In Syria

Operation Half Life

A 2016 picture of then-Staff Sgt. David Dezwaan as he inspects the wiring of a simulated radioactive dispersal device at Clear Lake, California. Dezwaan was charged with planting explosives at a US base in Syria which injured four Americans. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings.

Staff Sgt. Bobby Cummings/9th Reconnaissance Wing

An Air Force explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, technician was charged with setting off explosives on a base in Syria in a rare case of an American service member being legally accused of trying to kill or harm other Americans in combat.

Tech. Sgt. David W. Dezwaan, Jr. was charged Thursday, Aug. 4, with six counts under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including aggravated assault and dereliction of duty.

Dezwaan, according to the Air Force, is assigned to Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where he is a noncommissioned officer in charge of an EOD unit.

Beale EOD diffuse simulated crisis situation

Then-Staff Sgt. David Dezwaan attempts to enter a room with multiple simulated booby traps at Clear Lake, California, in 2016. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings.

Staff Sgt. Bobby Cummings/9th Reconnaissance Wing

According to the Air Force, Dezwaan staged an attack inside Green Village, a US base in Syria, in April 2022. About 1,000 US troops are in Syria.

Four American service members were hurt in the attack, officials said, though all returned to duty soon after.

According to military officials and reporting by CNN, officials at first believed the location had come under mortar attack. However, after investigation, it appeared that the explosions had been “deliberate placement of explosive charges by an unidentified individual(s) at an ammunition holding area and shower facility.”

CNN reported that surveillance video captured a figure moving between the site of the explosions before the detonations.

Dezwaan was arrested in June but not named until Thursday. Prosecutors have not yet named a motive in the event and have not said whether the explosions were intentionally set to simulate a mortar attack.

Beale EOD diffuse simulated crisis situation

Then-Staff Sgt. David Dezwaan, left, and Airman 1st Class Alex Nona at Clear Lake, California, in 2016. The EOD technicians participated in Operation: Half-Life, an exercise designed to evaluate a synchronized, multiagency response to a crisis situation. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings.

Staff Sgt. Bobby Cummings/9th Reconnaissance Wing

EOD techs are experts in explosives, with a primary mission of disarming or removing explosives on a battlefield. Over the last two decades of war, EOD troops routinely deployed, patrolled, and fought alongside a wide range of direct action troops, including special operators, infantry units, and base security forces.

According to the Air Force, Dezwaan enlisted in 2007. In 2010, he was featured in an official Air Force video when he received the Combat Action Medal for a firefight in Afghanistan. In the video, Dezwaan said he was in a vehicle in Afghanistan that was hit with a 40-pound blast from an improvised explosive device and then came under attack.

Along with the assault and dereliction, Dezwaan faces charges of destroying military property, reckless endangerment, access of a government computer with an unauthorized purpose, and obtaining classified information.

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Matt White is the Military Editor for Coffee or Die. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years, and has over a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Know a story about any aspect of the US military that Coffee Or Die readers need to know? Email him.
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