Air Force bomb disposal tech charged in April insider attack in Syria
Aug 4, 05:16 PM
Dezwaan, left, and Airman 1st Class Alex Nona, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technicians, conduct radioactive detection methods during an exercise May 5, 2016, at Clear Lake, California. (Senior Airman Bobby Cummings/Air Force)
The military has charged Tech. Sgt. David Wayne Dezwaan, Jr., an Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technician, in connection with April’s insider attack on U.S. troops in Syria.
Dezwaan, an active duty member of the 775th Civil Engineer Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, most recently served as his squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of EOD equipment, the Air Force said Thursday.
He is accused of several violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including: dereliction of duty; destroying military property; reckless endangerment; unauthorized access of a government computer; obtaining classified information; and aggravated assault.
CNN previously reported a perpetrator set up military-grade explosives more powerful than a hand grenade near ammunition storage and showers at Green Village, a small American outpost in northern Syria. Blasts injured four service members, who were treated for traumatic brain injuries and returned to work later in April.
About 900 U.S. personnel remain in Syria to advise and assist the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting government troops in the country’s civil war.
The Air Force did not answer how long Dezwaan was deployed to Syria at the time of the attack. He was arrested in the U.S. on June 16 and placed in pretrial confinement. A Hill spokesperson declined to say where the suspect is being held.
Dezwaan is scheduled to appear at an Article 32 hearing at Hill on Aug. 23, where a military judge will decide whether evidence is sufficient to move on to a court-martial. The proceeding is the military justice system’s equivalent of a preliminary hearing ahead of trial in civilian court.
Dezwaan enlisted in the Air Force in October 2007, two years after graduating from high school in western Michigan, according to a 2010 article in the Holland Sentinel.
While stationed at Kadena Air Base, Japan, in 2010, Dezwaan received the Air Force Combat Action Medal in recognition of his deployment with the Marine Corps to Afghanistan’s Helmand province the previous year.
He told the Holland Sentinel he received the medal for a mission in which he helped clear a route between Forward Operating Bases Delaram and Golestan in southern Afghanistan.
“Twelve hours into the route clearance, we came to what is called Buji Bast Pass. This is the entrance into the Black Pass,” Dezwaan said in the question-and-answer article. “The area is known for frequent and deadly insurgent activity.”
But the route between the two mountains is the only way to get between the two bases, so sweepers walked ahead of the convoy with metal detectors to find any IEDs.
“Halfway through Buji Bast Pass, my vehicle was struck by an IED blast which detonated right under the front right tire. The 40-pound blast completely immobilized the vehicle,” Dezwaan said.
A 2010 Air Force press release said he wasn’t sure what had happened, but the explosion caused Dezwaan to hit his head.
“We experienced only minor injuries, ranging from some bruising to a cut and busted-open lip,” he told the Holland Sentinel.
The convoy waited for a recovery team to arrive about 24 hours later. After an hour, though, the troops came under indirect mortar fire and gunshots from the mountains above them.
“We returned fire, making the terrorists withdraw,” Dezwaan said. “When our recovery assets came, the supporting EOD team’s vehicle was struck by an IED, also 40 pounds of bulk homemade explosives, approximately 75 meters away from the site of our disabled vehicle.”
That vehicle was immobilized as well.
“They linked up with our convoy to continue the mission as we waited for more recovery assets,” he added.
Dezwaan received several other military medals, including the Joint Service Achievement Medal for “outstanding achievement or meritorious service,” according to the Air Force, plus seven other achievement and commendation medals from the Army, Navy and Air Force.
It’s unclear if the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division are looking into any other suspects.
“Airmen who have charges preferred against them are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty,” Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said Thursday.