Equipment Specialist (Ordnance)
Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center
US Army Materiel Command
Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey
Put himself at risk for over 20 years so that American soldiers could better understand and disarm unexploded foreign military weapons.
“Know thy enemy, know thyself,” wrote the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu. A soldier must also know the weapons arrayed against him as he prepares for battle. US Army Equipment Specialist Alan Richwald has helped American fighting men and women do just that, from Cold War battlefields to the war against terrorism, despite immense danger to his personal safety.
Richwald has one of the toughest and riskiest jobs there is. For more than twenty years, he has performed hundreds of hazardous missions worldwide to collect unknown foreign military weapons, bombs and booby-traps. That is only half of the job. The other—equally risky—part has involved figuring out how to effectively disarm them. The perpetual stress of such a violently unpredictable career makes Richwald’s lengthy tenure of service truly remarkable.
The fruit of his labor is the safety of US military men and women. Richwald has been actively involved in the cataloguing the knowledge he has acquired. His guidebooks have trained Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams from each of the four military branches how to safely dispose of unexploded munitions found on hostile battlefields throughout the world.
He has also devised innovative training programs that realistically bring to life the actual threats found in combat and how to cope with these threats. This training allows soldiers to more safely carry out their EOD tasks. His deployment workshops for recent conflicts have equipped soldiers with the most current identification and EOD operations skills. These workshops contribute to the mission success of US Army EOD Units and reduce the risks to which they are exposed in deployments.
The combined result of Richwald’s skills and dedication has made him a highly respected EOD expert. Despite the Parkinson’s disease that has afflicted him for the past five years, he has continued to perform the exacting duties of his job and share his expertise by training young soldiers. His contributions have been enormous and have touched most, if not all, of the present Army EOD community.
“I love the job—every day is good to be alive,” Richwald has said. Thanks to his work, many soldiers who otherwise would have been exposed to deadly munitions can say the same.