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EOD tests handling of misfired ordnance safety procedures


Story Identification Number: 2003313103646
Story by Sgt. David A. Bryant

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz.(March 13, 2003) -- When new procedures were established by Training and Education Command concerning the handling of misfired ordnance for using units, the station Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit took an interest in what was being said.

After all, lives could be on the line.

So, when a message was issued authorizing units that handle the M-141 diversionary charge to store misfired charges in containers if EOD units were unable to respond in 30 minutes, station EOD decided to test different containers to see which ones should be approved for use.

"In a situation like this, most Marines will store them in an empty ammunition can and shut the lid," said Sgt. Nicholas Hillebrand, EOD technician. "So we wanted to test different ammo cans to see if they will work properly."

The charge can send non-penetrating fragments approximately two and a half feet from the detonation, but EOD was unsure what would happen if the detonation occurred in an enclosed metal can, he said. In the case of a hang-fire, a situation where the firing pin doesn't quite hit the priming material but could still finish the job if moved around, EOD technicians trying to open an ammo can could set off the device.

The first test, using an empty .50-caliber ammunition can with the lid attached, proved that a hang-fire in any container with the lid on would most likely be fatal to an EOD technician. The lid was forcefully blown off and landed several yards away from the ammunition can, while the can itself was distorted and bent nearly in half.

"We saw the message talking about approved containers, but nothing said what type of container it was," said Gunnery Sgt. Carl Holden, EOD technician. "So we are testing the gauge of different containers in order to make a recommendation to (Training and Education Command) on what should be used."

For the second test, the same type of can was used. This time it was partially filled with sand and the lid was left off. This resulted in one side of the can being blown off and a partial meltdown of the can.

To see whether the use of other materials in a .50-caliber ammunition can would decrease the chance of injury, as well as to see whether a container that size should even be used, the third test consisted of the same type of can, without a lid and filled with foam spacing material, according to Hillebrand. The explosion did less damage to the container, but the packing material was still blown about forcefully.

With the smaller containers tested, the technicians moved up to a 40 mm ammunition can. The lid was left off since the first test had already proved having a lid on was dangerous, and the can was filled about 1/3 of the way with sand.

This test started showing results, with the blast going almost completely upward and the sides of the can getting only slightly dented outward.

Although the test was a success, one last test was tried to be on the safe side, this time using a round, smoke pot container filled halfway with sand. While smoke pot containers are less handy than other containers, this proved to be the safest method of all as the container was undamaged and the entire blast vented upward.

According to Holden, the test results were sent to Training and Education Command with their recommendations on what an "approved container" should be. The recommendations that the words "approved container" be removed and a 30-minute wait time before moving the ordnance was adopted.

"In a case like this, we would be the ones to respond to misfire procedures," Holden said. "The fact we know how to gauge these things will let us know what to expect when we get there. It helps us be prepared."

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