EOD Airman fulfills unique mission in Vietnam

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Janelle Patiño
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Vietnam was once a country torn by the devastation of war, and recently, a member of Team Fairchild had the opportunity to experience the country's modern society and how it has changed.

According to Staff Sgt. Arthur Bigelow, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, volunteering for the Joint Prisoners of War or Missing in Action Accounting Command was the most memorable and life-changing experience he has encountered in his lifetime.

Bigelow recently went on a temporary duty assignment for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command where he stayed for a month and a half in Vietnam. JPAC is a joint command within the United States Department of Defense whose mission is to conduct global search, recovery, and laboratory operations to identify unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts in order to support the Department of Defense's personnel accounting efforts.

"Along with civilians and other branches of the military, we went to different crash sites to recover remains we found every day for a month and a half," said Bigelow. "We also worked with a lot of locals who helped and welcomed us with open arms."

During his TDY, meeting new people almost everyday and hearing their stories have definitely changed Bigelow's perspective in life.

"This whole TDY was a life-changing experience for me because, without us realizing, there were still families out there trying to look for the remains of their loved ones," he said. "Knowing that I got to help them in my own little way made me more proud to be in the military; it's more about tradition and pride when you get to help give families peace of mind, knowing they've been waiting for it for a long time. It was also amazing to see how everything transformed since the war."

Bigelow volunteered for the TDY because of the stories he has heard from his father, a retired Airman. Hearing stories from the past and actually seeing what Vietnam is now with his own two eyes, in his opinion, is very different.

"I volunteered for it because it sounded like an experience that not a lot of people get, even in the EOD career field," Bigelow said. "Also, after seeing so many movies about it, seeing the modern day Vietnam, being involved at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and meeting a lot of Vietnam War veterans, hearing their stories about the war made me realize how far we have come."

According to Bigelow, for other Vietnam War veterans, seeing what Vietnam is like now gave them peace of mind.

"We also met a lot of Vietnamese who took time to take us to places and show us how different their country is now compared to the time when the war happened," he said. "After seeing how Vietnamese people treated people who visit their country now, it made me realize how everything takes time. Even people's perspectives toward each other can change when you give it time."