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20,000 tons of weapons, munitions destroyed

By Staff Sgt. Kevin Bromley

TAJI, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 21, 2005) – U.S. troops destroyed nearly 20 thousand tons of weapons and munitions Dec. 16, signaling the end of a year-long project to rid the Saddam regime-era ammunition dump of its deadly stores.

The ammunition dump, known as Area Echo, located north of Baghdad housed tons of ordnance stockpiled by Saddam Hussein's military. The area contained everything from small-caliber ammunition, mortars, and artillery shells to larger weapons such as 1,000 pound bombs, and surface-to-air missiles.

Sgt. 1st Class Neil Morrison, and Spc. Joshua Peltz, of the 710th Ordnance Company helped prepare the munitions for destruction.

"Each of the bombs contains almost 450 pounds of explosive material," said Morrison. "We don't usually get to detonate aircraft bombs…we don’t get to blow up this much material very often."

Morrison and Peltz prepared the bombs by placing plastic explosives and blasting caps in each one.

"We use three to four times the amount of explosives normally used in the fuses to detonate these bombs," said Morrison. "We want to make sure it functions."

3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division were tasked with the management of Area Echo and worked diligently with contractors and explosives ordnance disposal teams to clear the compound of all munitions.

"Coalition forces started clearing Taji around May 2003," said Capt. Eric Swenson, assistant brigade engineer.

New jobs for Iraqis

Once the munitions are deactivated, the empty casings are de-milled by a contracting company. The de-milling operation gives jobs to local workers and infuses much-needed revenue back into the local economy.

"We have a contractor that cuts the empty casings up and sells the scrap metal," said Swenson. "The sale of scrap pays for the contractor's operation and the salaries of the local citizens they employ."

Swenson estimated that nearly 20,000 tons of munitions had been destroyed in Area Echo and the removal these munitions was a significant task that added to the safety of coalition forces and the Iraqi people.

"It means that insurgents can't use the materials for building bombs and the Iraqi government can re-use the land for other purposes," he said.

(Editor’s note; Staff Sgt. Kevin Bromley serves with 3/1 AD PAO.)

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