SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – From the outside, it looks like any building on the base. But, upon entering the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) facility, it does not take long to start seeing a name that frequently graces its halls and rooms on plaques, posters and displays.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski, 28, was KIA because of an enemy attack with an improvised explosive device (IED) May 26, 2011, in Shorabak, Afghanistan.
Now, the legacy of that name is not only etched across the building, but is also a part of its name. The 52 CES EOD facility was dedicated to the memory of Hamski during a ceremony presided over by U.S Air Force Maj. Gen. Derek France, 3rd Air Force commander, during a ceremony here, Dec. 1. The ceremony officially designated the building as the Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski Explosive Ordinance Disposal facility.
“While we call this a building dedication, this is far more than just about the physical structure,” said France. “By way of this dedication, our collective intent is that this building now serves as a testament to the principles (Hamski) held dear: caring for others, service to our nation, and a commitment to live life to the fullest.”
His final deployment was one he was never supposed to be on. When the wife of a fellow EOD technician received news she was pregnant, Hamski insisted on taking his friend’s place on the deployment, said Chief Master Sgt. Jeremiah Grisham, 521st Air Mobility Wing command chief.
“Joe wouldn’t have it (when his friend got orders to deploy),” said Grisham. “That’s just how Joe was. And the deep bonds of affection, the ties of fellowship that lead Joe to volunteer, that is something that exists between everyone who wears this (EOD badge) on their chest …”
It was those ties that deeply affected Senior Master Sgt. John C. Harden, currently the 366th Training Squadron EOD training flight chief, when he heard of Hamski’s passing while deployed to Afghanistan. Harden said the experience of carrying Hamski’s coffin onto the aircraft taking his body back to the United States helped give him and his flight the determination they needed to finish their deployment strong and all make it back.
That same determination carried over to Harden’s assignment to Spangdahlem AB in 2019, where he initiated the process of dedicating the base’s EOD facility to Hamski.
“I wanted the facility to serve as an inspiration and blessing to all EOD technicians who crossed the threshold of the building,” said Harden. “It will serve as an everlasting monument to honor Joe and his sacrifice. I am humbled to know that multiple generations of EOD techs who visit or are stationed at Spangdahlem will know, see, and hear about the selfless service of Staff Sgt. Hamski.”
Harden’s vision for the dedication of the building is shared by Mary Ellen Winston, Hamski’s mother, and Tech. Sgt. Christina Hamski, Staff Sgt. Hamski’s widow, both of whom attended the dedication ceremony.
“My hope and prayer is that, in dedicating this building, the legacy that’s gone before is a blessing for all who enter its doors, that the work that’s done by all of you here will be blessed by that legacy, and that you can continue that legacy for all who come after you,” said Winston.
While it may look like a regular building from the outside, the Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski EOD facility is different; it’s an active testament to the life and memory of a fellow brother in arms.
A native of Ottumwa, Iowa, Hamski joined the Air Force and graduated in 2003 from the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. He completed assignments at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, and Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, prior to his assignment to Spangdahlem. During his career, Hamski deployed four times in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM.
|SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, RP, DE