Watch your step!

EOD cleans up in Kuwait


by Sgt. James Hale

28th Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait -- When most people think of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), they think of police bomb squads deciding which wire to cut, or Soldiers in bomb suits clearing improvised explosive devices (IED). But Army EOD teams have many responsibilities that most people never hear about.

The 753rd Ordnance Company from the West Virginia Army National Guard conducted an EOD range in the desert near Camp Virginia on April 3 to dispose of 27.5 tons of unserviceable military munitions. They dispose of these munitions by stacking them in a particular sequence then wiring them with C-4 and blowing them up, which is much cheaper than sending them away to be demilitarized.

These munitions are deemed unserviceable when they are damaged, expired or they are no longer compatible. This can be simply because the equipment that fired them has been replaced or the munitions themselves have been improved upon.

“There is no safe way of handling these explosives,” said Cpt. Keith A. Toohey, commander of the 753rd. “Our procedures are the least dangerous way we know that are learned through the experience of the EOD specialists who came before us.”

Each of the five detonation areas had about 15 U.S. and Kuwaiti soldiers working to unload the munitions and two EOD specialists stacking them in pits that were around five feet deep, 10 feet wide and 25 feet long. The EOD specialists build the stacks by putting the smaller less explosive rounds on the bottom and working their way to the top where the most highly explosive rounds and C-4 were placed.

“By putting the most explosive rounds on top, we direct the pressure of the detonation down onto the less explosive rounds to ensure everything detonates and no unexploded ordnance gets thrown away from the pit,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Lott, an EOD specialist with the 753rd.

After all non-EOD personnel moved to the safe area, about a kilometer away, the stacks were wired with the C-4, detonation cord, blasting caps and radio transmitters. They use this procedure because until these last items are applied the munitions are relatively safe to handle.

“There’s a reason for everything (EOD specialists) do with the setup of the C-4,” said Toohey. “The placement of each block causes a specific reaction with the stack. Total there is about $1,500 worth of C-4 applied to the stack which is only a fraction of what it would cost to send the rounds to be demilitarized.”

Back at the safe area, everyone waits in anticipation for the EOD specialists to finish the final steps so they can watch all that hard work go up in flames, which is a good thing in this instance. Then, after everyone is accounted for, five massive explosions that can be seen, heard and felt are set off one after the other with about a 10 second delay between them.

The power of the explosions can really be seen when the EOD specialists return to the pits to retrieve the radio receivers and ensure all the explosives were detonated. In the pits, where the stacks used to be, there appears to be piles of busted concrete from the sand being put through extreme heat and pressure.

“Our job is to safely remove ordnance from the battlefield,” said Toohey. “Today was an example of one of the many ways we do that.”