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He tackled tricky task of bomb disposal.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

There is nothing vague about the term "improvised explosive device" to Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeff Hansen, a 27-year-old Springfield native and Iraq war veteran.

Hansen saw dozens of the so-called "IEDs" up close and personal during his seven-month deployment in Iraq as an explosive ordnance disposal craftsman with the 49th Civil Engineering Squad- ron.

For his work neutralizing hidden bombs in Iraq this year, Hansen earned the Air Force's highest award - being named one of the nation's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. The annual award recognizes superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievement. Recipients receive the Outstanding Airman ribbon with the bronze service star.

While Hansen said he has been honored to meet so many generals and other award winners this week in Washington, D.C., the motivation for volunteering to disarm dangerous explosives comes from his fellow soldiers.

"I knew there were soldiers depending on me to get this done. That outweighs the fear," Hansen said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

While Hansen's unit destroyed some IEDs by blowing them up, most had to be disarmed by remote control, using robots, to avoid damage to hospitals or other terrorist targets. The greater danger came from secondary devices planted by insurgents to kill people such as Hansen who are sent to disarm the IEDs.

"You definitely have to be alert. You have to pay attention to every piece of trash, to every dead animal," said Hansen, whose unit recently lost a member who was killed by a secondary device.

Army units and Iraqi police called Hansen's task force to investigate numerous suspicious scenes that turned out not to be hidden bombs. But 31 times there were bombs - including one 650-pound explosive device made up of artillery shells packed into a parked car.

Neutralizing the car bomb was "not incredibly difficult," Hansen said. They blew it up.

Hansen's team reopened crucial supply routes and ensured safety for patrols by soldiers and Iraqi police. His unit also collected evidence that led to the capture of two bomb makers.

Hansen also discovered a stockpile of 47 insurgent rockets. In addition, he trained 16 special operations soldiers on complex demolition techniques. And he personally raised more than $2,000 for an explosive ordinance disposal memorial and scholarship fund.

When he joined the Air Force in 1997, Hansen said, he was interested in languages. He is self-taught in Spanish and Arabic and completed an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, graduating magna cum laude.

When he had the opportunity to volunteer as an explosives specialist, Hansen found the idea "interesting." Hansen met his wife, Patrice, who is an Air Force paralegal, while the two were stationed in Montana. They have a 2-year-old son, Joseph. His mother, Linda Staver of Springfield, and younger brother, Joseph, joined Hansen for the awards dinner in Washington, D.C., this week.

Jeff and Patrice Hansen will leave for their new assignment in Japan on Friday. Hansen says he expects to be redeployed to Iraq or Afghanistan next spring.
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Title Annotation:General News; A Springfield native receives the Air Force's highest award for his work in Iraq
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 27, 2006
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