Subordinates never give orders to higher ranking soldiers in the military, but there are certain situations where ceremony and privilege have to fall away in the interests of stopping explosions from killing us all. As such, the first EOD responder to arrive becomes the on-scene commander, and while he may not have the highest rank, his advice comes with the added postscript "or we'll all die horribly."
I can't think of a time when I've said "We need to do [X] now" and had anyone in the military question me. Civilians, on the other hand, are free to pay us as little attention as their personal philosophy dictates. See, there's this act called Posse Comitatus, and it basically means that no one from the military is allowed to do anything that looks like law enforcement while on American soil. It's meant to prevent something like a coup, but it also means EOD folks have absolutely no authority over civilians in an active situation.
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"I paid for all-you-can-eat wings, I'm getting all-you-can-eat wings. Work around me."
Whether we're working with the Secret Service or the local sheriffs, it's the same thing: They do the ordering, we do the bomb disposing (and our lawyers handle everything else). For instance, say we need to clear some dude's barn because his collection of fertilizer and blasting caps is putting the whole neighborhood at risk. Even if we don't need to destroy the barn, he might decide to check up on us, because it's his property, and people in rural areas aren't always super fond of government employees. Now, we can't have civilians hovering around for a few reasons -- sometimes it's because of the obvious, and other times it's because the techniques or tools we're using are classified. But they are under no obligation to listen to us.
"You're goin' with the green wire? Really? It's always the red on the TV."
It's a pain in the butt either way, but there are compensating moments of glory. During my time in the Carolinas, one of our teams had to deal with a suspicious package. We ultimately decided that the safest thing to do was blast the shit out of it (see "shooting bombs until they explode," above), so that's exactly what we did. Now, this was at a big press event, so there were tons of news crews on sight, and they all wanted to get the whole thing on film. We warned them it was dangerous, but they chose not to listen to us, and we had no power to order them to leave. So we energetically disrupted the suspicious package, and out flew a very large adult entertainment device that proceeded to flop across the entire parking lot in front of all the six-o'clock news vans like a phallic fish out of water.
Hey, we did warn them.
Robert Evans wrote a book, A Brief History of Vice, in which he drank his own pee to test an ancient tobacco recipe. The least you can do is pre-order it.
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