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DANGER: UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE (UXO)

by CPT Steven Toller, SECOPS, NTC


POP QUIZ! Don't Peek!

1. Your unit is moving into a new area in preparation for the coming battle. The theater has seen extensive combat. The terrorist threat level is high. You must be ready for anything. The advance party encounters United States submunitions. You know (or should know) that they are dangerous because of your previous UXO awareness classes and from knowledge of applicable CTT tasks.

Question 1. If your commander decides to remain in this area, what is your next course of action?

2. Your unit discovers a suspicious package attached to a 5,000-gallon fuel tanker. Recent intelligence makes you suspect that this package may contain a homemade bomb.

Question 2. What do you do now?

3. After an enemy level one attack on your perimeter, one of your soldiers discovers a dud-fired rocket propelled grenade (RPG) stuck in the side of a command vehicle.

Question 3. Who should you call?

4. One of your elements has discovered foreign materiel of intelligence value. The area is booby-trapped. There are tripwires, hand grenades and landmines which are also probably booby-trapped. The soldiers who stumbled across this cache found out it was booby-trapped when they disturbed the site and sustained two casualties.

Question 4. What next?

Sound familiar? These and similar scenarios have been encountered in combat situations in Southwest Asia, Somalia, and Bosnia.

There is only one right answer! Call on those who "defuse danger" for a living -- the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians of the U.S Army EOD.

In recent months, an initiative has been underway at the NTC to integrate EOD teams into the Army's premier training experience. This initiative has benefited both the U.S. Army EOD and the supported maneuver elements as they begin to understand how and when to utilize EOD teams, support requirements, reporting procedures and the problems encountered in accomplishing these tasks.

In training and combat, UXOs and terrorist devices take a frightening toll of U.S. soldiers and civilian personnel. The key to reducing these casualties is education and adherence to published procedures, especially the CTT tasks dealing with identifying, reporting and marking UXOs (see references). Unit leadership to the lowest level must be informed and proactive. U.S. Army EOD units can expound on unit UXO training, providing UXO Awareness/Explosives Safety classes complete with real, inert training aids, slides, and other multi-media presentations. EOD soldiers can also participate in your field training exercises by providing "terrorist" activities such as planting suspect packages, booby-trapping items, or placing UXO training aids. All U.S. Army units have EOD support. In the case of major installations, the EOD unit is probably right there on post.

When the unit deploys to the NTC, a three-man EOD team is attached to the maneuver brigade beginning with RSOI-1 in the "Dust Bowl." This is doctrinally correct IAW FM 9-15. This EOD team is functioning in what we call the "fragmented team" concept. How, where, and when they are employed is the responsibility of the brigade staff. Correct employment of the EOD team will save "lives" and reduce "casualties" during the rotation, exactly as it would on a real-world operation.

The team is comprised of an EOD Team Leader (SSG) and two Team Members (SGT and below). They deploy with an M998 vehicle and trailer, carrying the EOD equipment needed to deal with conventional, chemical, biological ordnance, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The EOD Team Leader is the Brigade Commander's EOD advisor on such matters as UXO force protection, safe evacuation distances, explosive effects, etc. Since these matters can have grave consequences for the tactical commander, the EOD Team Leader should have direct communication with the Brigade S-3 to respond quickly to threats, give situation reports on EOD incidents in progress, advise on tactical considerations (safe distances, MSR interdictions, etc.), provide technical intelligence, and request needed support to accomplish their mission.

EOD team support needs are all classes of supply and security. Generally, they are attached to a unit within the BSA for support, but can operate throughout the Brigade sector. Special consideration of their Class V resupply is critical. The team is ineffective without explosives and demolition material. Situational support required while responding to EOD incidents can include units to provide security, medical support and evacuation, fire-fighting equipment, engineer and decontamination assets, communications and command and control.

The deployed EOD team is also geared to conduct UXO classes for the Brigade's soldiers. They tailor the class to real ordnance encountered at the NTC. They can also provide a range of training ordnance based on current intelligence and terrorist threat. Classes are most effective during the RSOI phase or prior to deployment, whether to the NTC or a real-world operation.

Recently, a real UXO accident occurred at the NTC. Four soldiers were seriously injured. The threat is real and must be countered with education and training to standard. As units deploy to the NTC, continued exposure to EOD teams will greatly improve force protection if we all take advantage of the opportunity. Future deployments to the world's hotspots will certainly require increased involvement by U.S. Army EOD. The time to train is now! A force-projection Army will deploy with the skills it has upon notification for movement.

References:

STP 21-1-SMCT Task No. 093-401-5000, Identify Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Hazards
STP 21-24-SMCTTask No. 093-403-5010, Recognize Military Explosive Ordnance by Type
Task No. 093-403-5020, Take Immediate Action Based on Confirmation of an Explosive Hazard
Task No. 093-403-5030, Report Explosive Hazards
FM 21-1 Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Procedures
FM 9-15Explosive Ordnance Disposal Service and Unit Operations


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