Joseph R. Deslauriers represents the new face of Airmen on the battlefield. Throughout his sixteen-year career, Master Sergeant Deslauriers has deployed in support of numerous operations and has disarmed more than 200 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in support of ground forces. Born in 1978, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Deslauriers enlisted in the Air Force in 1998. When there were no openings for firefighters, he instead chose Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).
Upon completion of basic military training and the highly demanding Naval School, EOD at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Deslauriers was assigned to the 52d Civil Engineer Squadron, Spangdahlem, Germany. While there, he deployed in support of Operation ALLIED FORCE during the Kosovo campaign and Operation NORTHERN WATCH in Kuwait. In 2002, he was reassigned to the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida where he deployed four more times in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM. In 2006, while deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq, he and his team cleared or rendered safe over 200 IEDs in support of ground forces over a six-month period, saving countless lives and property. For his heroic actions, Deslauriers received the first of his two Bronze Stars. In 2009 he provided EOD support to the Kyrgyz Republic as part of the 376th Expeditionary Mission Support Group and forward deployed to Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, personally disarming another twenty explosive devices.
On September 23rd, 2011, during his second combat tour to Afghanistan, an incident occurred that would change his life forever. While supporting a patrol of US Marines in the Now Zad District, Deslauriers had already cleared one explosive device and performed two post-blast assessments when an explosion disabled an armored vehicle and injured two Marines. He once again dismounted his armored vehicle, cleared a path to the disabled vehicle, provided medical care, cleared a landing zone for a medical evacuation helicopter, and helped carry the wounded Marines to safety. While conducting a final sweep to clear the area, Deslauriers stepped on a buried initiation system that triggered a fifth IED. Despite suffering nearly fatal injuries, including amputations of both his legs and left arm below his elbow, he continued to pass critical information about the device to the team and allowed them to continue their mission successfully. For his gallantry and devotion to duty, he was awarded the Silver Star.
While recovering from the explosion, Deslauriers worked relentlessly to return to active duty. Only four months after the nearly fatal incident, he was the first to use a revolutionary advanced prosthetic arm. Deslauriers has served as an advocate to Congress on wounded warrior issues, completed the Marine Corps Marathon and recently returned to Air Force Special Operations Command as the functional manager for EOD. Deslauriers is currently the highest decorated USAF EOD technician, whose awards include the Silver Star, Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, the Purple Heart and, Air Force Combat Action Medal.
MSgt Deslauriers’ team dresses him in an EOD bomb suit as he prepares to take “the long walk” to disarm an IED in Afghanistan.