EOD detachment helps with base safety, threat response
July 6, 2007
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — You never know what someone is going to find when they start digging on a military base in Japan. A golf course renovation at Naval Air Facility Atsugi turned up .20 mm rounds. Artillery shells were found at Ikego Housing Area’s recreational campgrounds.
Land that has been used for military purposes for decades — and sometimes centuries — is likely to yield unexploded ordnance when shovels start turning over.
But it’s pretty easy to tell whether the findings come from the Japanese or the U.S. military, said Lt. Ben Cipperley of Yokosuka’s explosive ordnance disposal detachment, the only shore-based EOD detachment in the region. “We can usually tell what it is by the markings,” Cipperley said. “And if we cannot, we can tell by the measurements. Our goal is to positively identify everything no matter what we find, so we best know how to dispose of it properly.”
Finding and safely disposing of retrograde ordnance is one of EOD’s jobs, but the detachment’s primary mission is to respond to potential threats to the U.S. military and government.
This ranges from using robots to check a suspicious package at the post office to providing an extra layer of security at U.S. Embassy parties. Yokosuka’s EOD also conducts bilateral training with Japanese police departments and security personnel.
Yokosuka’s EOD detachment is small, with four enlisted personnel and one officer. This means biweekly duty in order to keep on-call personnel within a 30-minute response time.
And with the U.S. at war, those assigned to Japan have more “real-world” experience than ever before, Cipperley said. Everyone in the shop has been deployed at least once to a war zone.
“Now more than ever, people come in with more real-world training,” Cipperley said. “Everyone knows how to operate the robot from doing it for real instead of just learning it in school.”
How to detonate ordnance
Three elements make something go “Boom!”: some explosives, a booster and an initiator.
“It really is that simple,” Chief Petty Officer Jason Kennedy explained Monday after demolition training at Camp Fuji.
Kennedy and the rest of Yokosuka’s explosive ordnance disposal detachment set off a shot with about 125 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive and Deta sheet.
“Explosives require a certain amount of ‘punch’ to set it off,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Smith. “The blasting cap is the most sensitive part of the equipment, so we keep that far away from the explosive while we’re setting up a shot.”
After bundling up the explosive material, the last step before detonation is “priming in,” or connecting the blasting caps to the charge.
“It looks like chaos, but it all comes together,” Smith said.
— Allison Batdorff