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Big bangs destroy 2,000 munitions

11/16/2005 - ALI BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- Airmen from the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight detonated 2,000 munitions, keeping them the out of the hands of insurgents.

It took four detonations to destroy the weapons, which members of the Iraqi national guard had captured. After each big bang, there was applause and smiles from the explosive ordnance disposal technicians who triggered the blasts.

“Every piece of ordnance destroyed today, is one less IED that can kill someone tomorrow,” one Airman said.

Some of the munitions blown up were as good as new and others were totally rusted, squadron officials said. That does not matter. Such munitions -- no matter their state -- are what insurgents most often use to make the improvised explosive devices they use against coalition forces, they said.

So squadron Airmen are engaged in a fight to keep munitions out of the hands of the bomb makers. At the heart of the battle is the core of EOD technicians, like those who work at this desert base.

The unit’s Airmen -- known as the “Smokin’ Monkeys” -- have removed and destroyed hundreds of munitions.

Iraqi Soldiers found the batch the Airmen destroyed in late October. The Iraqis then asked, through the base office of special investigation, the EOD flight to dispose of the cache. The squadron sent a two-person team to check out the site.

But before the EOD flight could act, it had to coordinate with Italian military officials at the base. The Italian military controls the area outside the base where the ordnance was found.

Capt. Brian Baumann, the EOD flight commander, set up a joint U.S.-Italian operation. In the end, EOD troop from both countries split the munitions and shared the workload.

The first part of the disposal process was ordnance identification.

“Bad things can happen when unlike ordnance items are mixed together and detonated,” the captain said.

The technicians avoided that, true to the EOD creed: “Initial success or total failure.”

The next challenge was to get the ordnance to the on-base disposal site safely. Senior Master Sgt. Joe Durkee, the flight chief, provided guidance and oversight throughout the logistical operation. EOD troop Master Sgt. Bill Courter took the initial lead on planning and resource coordination.

The first evaluation revealed that the Airmen would need logistics support, including six 40-foot tractor trailers, 16 volunteers, armored transport, 100 wooden pallets, a banding machine, a 10K forklift and two front-end loaders.

There was no one agency that could provide all those resources, the captain said. So the team turned elsewhere. That provided great opportunities to coordinate a large-scale operation between the Air Force, Army and coalition partners at a local level, he said.

EOD troop Staff Sgt. Ron White was the team chief for the transportation phase. In the end, the logistical support requirements were not as great. But there was still a need for armored transport for the 16 volunteers. The office of special investigations provided two up-armored SUVs.

Master Sgt. Ricky Melton, the 407th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron’s assistant operations noncommissioned officer in charge, took care of the convoy portion of the plan. This allowed EOD to concentrate on explosive safety, ordnance identification and demolition planning, Captain Baumann said.

But organizers feared the operation might not go at all because, at show time, there were no 40-foot tractor trailers. Eventually they arrived and the convoy got rolling. At the site, the EOD troops loaded the munitions on the trucks and safely transported to Ali Base.

Then Staff Sgt. Richard Dula, team chief for the demolition operation, asked the squadron’s “Dirt Boyz” -- civil engineer troops -- to provide a front-end loader and 10K forklift.

The EOD team worked three hours setting up the four shots.

Distinguished visitors from the Army and Iraqi Guard and air force, joined 407th Air Expeditionary Group Commander Col. Don Palandech for the detonations.

An Iraqi general pushed the button to set off the first shot.

--Capt. Brian Baumann, Senior Master Sgt. Joe Durkee, Master Sgt. Bill Courter, Staff Sgts. Richard Dula and Ron White contributed to this article.



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