Disposing Unserviceable Ammo & Explosives
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Fiery contrails of white phosphorus propelled through a mushroom cloud of fire and smoke, giving a pyrotechnic display that vaporized hundreds of pounds of explosives in an instant.
Just south of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, the 787th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordn. Battalion, out of Fort Lewis, Washington, has been providing such displays for over a month. Blast after blast, the explosive ordnance disposal technicians have been getting rid of ordnance that is expired or deemed unserviceable.
“KAF has been facilitating military operations for quite some time, so there’s a good amount of explosives that have piled up over the years,” said 1st Lt. Jin Dorso, a native of Burlington, Vermont, who serves as an operations officer with 787th.
“When we came to KAF, disposing of old ordnance wasn’t a part of our initial mission. However, Division is making an effort to draw down personnel and equipment, including ordnance. They informed us that they needed some help, and we were happy to provide it,” Dorso said. “We’ve been doing this about a month now, and we’ve been blowing up anywhere from 15,000 to 18,000 lbs. twice a week.”
Dorso explained that the explosives went through a process where ordnance specialists classified it as unserviceable or Code H as the EOD personnel call it. It then fell to the 787th to effectively dispose of it.
This hasn’t been the typical mission for the 787th. The company is filled with seasoned EOD tech’s that are used to being on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan diffusing and disabling improvised explosive devices emplaced by insurgents.
“We haven’t really been actively going on patrols, which is really different for us. We’ve mostly been focused on retrograding munitions and closing down instead of dealing with IED’s,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Setzer, one of the 787th’s senior EOD tech’s, from Tacoma, Washington.
“The Afghan EOD has gotten to a point where they are operationally comfortable with dealing with the threat on their own, and this mission just came to us. It’s provided good training for some of our younger EOD techs coming up,” Setzer added.
The 787th takes its job seriously and its personnel adhere to strict safety measures outlined in their EOD doctrinal publications.
“In the school house they tell you that EOD doctrine is written in blood, because it has been written from circumstances where people have been hurt or killed,” Dorso said. “So all of those safety measures we really take it to heart… When you’re dealing with hundreds of pounds of explosives you really have to be on your game, and there’s no reason that anybody should get hurt.”