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EOD Airmen destroy explosives

by Capt. Catie Hague
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/27/2005 - BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- Heat, shock and friction were key ingredients in the controlled detonation of more than 1,000 pounds of explosives Jan. 23.

The 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron's explosive ordnance disposal Airmen spent close to six hours, three miles off base, preparing for a less-than-one-second blast, officials said.

"Most of what we destroyed was old ammo" said Senior Airman Kristie Timberlake, an EOD technician, "explosives that people found throughout Afghanistan or those collected by the Office of Special Investigations. There's a safe holding location on Bagram where all kinds of munitions are stored; once we collect enough, the team travels out to the range and blows 'em up."

The unexploded ordnance destroyed included everything from small arms, aircraft ammunition and rockets, to Howitzer casings, large projectiles, rifle grenades and anti-tank mines.

"The most important thing to consider in any disposal operation next to safety, is the continuity of the explosives," said Staff Sgt. Robert Whitehurst, the EOD team chief. "You want each block of demolition explosive [C-4] to be touching another block, so when the wave comes off the first initiation point, it successively initiates the next.

"Experience has taught us how to efficiently and effectively get the job done in the least amount of time, while destroying the most amount of munitions and using a minimum amount of demolition explosives," he said.

In this case, the most powerful explosives were placed on top, while the next layer contained what is known as "brisance" explosives, he said.

"These (explosives) cut, separate and destroy every other explosive underneath -- the exact reason why we placed the (unexploded ordnance), mostly scrap metal, on the bottom," Sergeant Whitehurst said.

In the end, a sensitized detonating cord was used to initiate the blast, he said.

The EOD Airmen protect people and property here against all explosively driven threats -- anything that could present a hazard to coalition forces deployed here, Sergeant Whitehurst said.

Afghanistan has the second largest cache of foreign weapons in the world, next to Iraq, he said.

"Our technicians are brought in to destroy them and deal with threats ... that put our military personnel in danger," Sergeant Whitehurst said.

Simply, the EOD mission comes down to "initial success or total failure," he said.

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