Centuries ago lacrosse was known as “the little brother of war” as hundreds of members of the Iroquois Confederacy used to play violent games on mile long fields as a way to train their warriors and settle disputes between tribes instead of resorting to fighting actual wars.
In 2019, war and a sport that is played for fun are hard to compare, but EOD Technician John Harris can see similarities between playing lacrosse and being in a battle.
“Off ball movement in lacrosse could be equated to movement techniques under fire as far as getting to where you need to be next to facilitate a play or continue your assault forward on the battle field. I also hear the pros talk about their ‘lacrosse intelligence’ or ‘game intelligence’, this, for me, is having sound mind and judgement to read your opponent or enemy and make adjustments on the fly to achieve victory.”
Lacrosse players always seem to find a way to bring the sport with them wherever they go and Harris has helped bring it to Fort Bragg in North Carolina where he and members of his EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) company have started playing pick up games. In the picture above, Harris and his EOD team proudly wear the pinnies and shorts inspired by the bomb suits they wear for their line of work. You can even see the comparison with two members wearing the actual bomb suits.
Harris reached out to Powell Lacrosse and we were honored to design the uniforms.
“When I started with the idea of the uniform, I pitched it after our first time playing. Almost everybody was familiar with the reversible pinnie and Powell had a great special going for jerseys and shorts to match. So I pitched that we could use them for all our team sports and everybody loved the idea.”
These unique uniforms feature all of their call signs rather than a name or jersey number, the EOD insignia proudly displayed on their chest, and the large zippers on the sides of their shorts are like the ones on the bulky bomb suit they wear to protect themselves when defusing all kinds of explosive devices.
This past summer, players in the Premier Lacrosse League that were able to score goals from the 2 point line became known as the Bomb Squad, but Harris and his teammates are the true Bomb Squad of lacrosse.
It would be pretty intimidating to show up to a game and see the other team wearing these.
“The idea to start playing lacrosse at Fort Bragg started with my son.”
Harris’ son is 8 years old and just started playing lacrosse this past summer.
“I had told a few people that he was starting to play and then they told me they used to play. I asked if they’d be interested in playing together in some pickup games and the rest fell into place.”
Intramural sports and pickup games can be an important part of life on a military base. Harris played lacrosse in high school and wanted to bring the opportunity to his soldiers to have a chance to play.
“Our MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) has 10 women’s sticks that they have available to rent. I rented all of them and asked UA Speed Lacrosse for a donation of one field kit. I set up our first unit speed lacrosse game the next week. It was a hit, everybody loved playing, loved how physically demanding it was and the coordination it takes to play.”
Before the uniforms and the pick up games, Harris could have never imagined getting to play lacrosse while also balancing the duties of the military’s most dangerous job. Harris’ grandfathers were in the Army so he always knew he wanted to join to carry on their legacy. He decided to wait to enlist until after college, but going into EOD was originally not a part of the plan.
“Fast forward to the end of my senior year and I heard someone talking about EOD and it sounded interesting. This was around the same time that The Hurt Locker was winning all the awards, but I had only seen a preview. I asked the recruiter about it and he showed me this video about EOD from the 80s. It was the lamest thing I had ever seen, ha-ha.”
“It did show some cool things though, soldiers wearing and working in the bomb suit, big explosions, and the badge… the EOD badge was hands down the coolest badge I had ever seen. I told him I wanted that and I signed a new contract that day.”
“The EOD community is one of the smallest in all four services, combined. EOD technicians make up about 0.01% of the entire military. It is a special family that crosses all four services and even into the civilian world as we work a lot with local, state and federal bomb squads/specialists. The skills and knowledge I have gained through the Army and my career are invaluable.”
Like anyone else work often stresses Harris and his fellow soldiers out, but they don’t have normal 9-5 jobs. In their case the stress comes from constantly training to diffuse explosives and that their life is on the line every time they put on the bomb suit. The knowledge, skill, and mental strength it must take to properly diffuse such dangerous devices while wearing that bulky bomb suit is something I cannot even begin to imagine.
Finding ways to relieve that stress and also decompress from military life are so important for soldiers like Harris.
“In the past I have found ways to deal with my stress and troubles at work. Some of them were healthy, most of them were not. Lacrosse gives me a healthy stress relief that doesn’t feel like work. On any particular rough day, I can come home, play some wall ball, rip some shots and it is like hitting the reset button. It has given me the chance to focus my energies on something other than the Army, which in turn keeps me fresh and a more effective soldier and EOD technician.”
The biggest reward of playing lacrosse again for Harris has been being able to share it with his son, especially since Army life takes up so much of his time.
“He picked up a stick on a whim only knowing that sometimes daddy goes outside and bangs a ball on the side of our house. I asked if he wanted to give it a try and the rest has all been but a blur. We have had a tough relationship, I was gone most of his toddler days whether it was training, missions, or my deployment. Teaching him how to catch, throw and cradle as well as the short time that he has been playing has brought us so much closer together than we ever were.”
The pick up games at Fort Bragg have allowed Harris to help other soldiers have the chance to have a different outlet to relieve some stress and compete in something that isn’t military based.
“Since we have started playing, interest has gone up and some of our sister companies have expressed interest in playing as well. It provides us an opportunity to get active outside our normal physical training regimen.”
The members of the Bomb Squad don’t have to worry about defusing bombs, PT, or running drills in that moment. They are just friends having fun playing lacrosse.
Powell Lacrosse is extremely proud to be able to help John Harris and his fellow soldiers continue to play lacrosse at Fort Bragg as well as tell their story.
Thank you for everything you do to help protect this country because without your service no one would be able to have the freedom to enjoy the liberties we have in the United States, including playing the sport of lacrosse.
Harris hopes to keep getting more people to join in on their games and possibly even get a big enough group to play in the nearby Raleigh ULAX league.
Harris and the Bomb Squad have limited sticks and equipment so if you are interested in donating extra lacrosse gear to them please email John Harris at email@example.com.