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CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — Marines say with pride that they never leave fellow Marines behind.

Artillerymen in Japan add with pride that they never leave a live shell behind after training.

That’s important in the wake of a string of injuries and a death caused by the explosion of live rounds scavenged from ranges by military hobbyists.

The Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily paper, recently spotlighted the actions of the hobbyists who sneak onto ranges at night looking for unexploded ordnance for souvenirs.

On May 3, a 43-year-old Gotenba hobbyist died when a shell he brought home from the Higashi-Fuji range exploded in his work shed, the newspaper reported.

And on June 30, a parcel packed with scavenged ammunition blew up at a delivery service depot, injuring a worker.

Prefectural records show that in the past 12 years there have been four fatal incidents involving unexploded shells.

None of those shells were from Marine exercises, Lt. Col. Michael Langley, commander of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, said recently from the battalion’s headquarters at Camp Hansen.

“We make sure all of our rounds are fired safely,” Langley said, stressing his Marines survey a firing area each morning prior to any live-fire training, and there are forward observers posted to account for every round.

“They do an accurate spotting of those rounds,” he said.

When a round does not detonate, the forward observers mark its location and explosive ordnance experts later destroy it.

“With our stringent measures in place, there’s very little chance that we won’t detect it and find it,” Langley said. “From my experience, we were always able to find them.”

The regiment’s records for the past two years show no unaccounted-for rounds, he said.

The Marines conduct live-fire artillery training at Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces bases in Hokkaido, Ojojihara in Miyagi Prefecture, Kita-Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture, Hijudai in Oita Prefecture and Higashi-Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture. JGSDF also uses the ranges.

Training was ceased on Okinawa as a result of the Special Action Committee on the 1996 agreement to reduce the island’s military footprint by moving some training off the island.

A spokesman for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces said “every precaution is made to leave no unexploded shells behind.”

Yet scavengers are finding them, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

The Shizuoka Public Prosecutor’s Office in Numazu recently indicted a 32-year-old man from Fuji on a charge of gross negligence resulting in injury involving the maiming of the delivery worker, the newspaper reported.

According to the indictment, Norihisa Kotani picked up 30 unexploded shells and shell fragments from the Higashi-Fuji training ground and sold them over the Internet. The parcel exploded at a distribution center of the Yamato Transport Co., in Shizuoka, injuring the worker.

“We are making the best effort we can to leave no unexploded shells behind,” a spokesman for the Higashi-Fuji site said.

“For each artillery firing training, we assign two teams to observe every shell that lands,” he said. “Every fired shell is visually monitored and also videotaped. If there is an unexploded shell, a search is made within a day.”

The JGSDF spokesman would not comment on where the live shells scavenged from the site may have come from. The area has been used for artillery training for decades.

Unexploded shells are usually the result of landing in soft ground after a heavy rain, he said.

Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces assign 200 troops every weekend and 600 troops at the end of each month to clean the 44-square-mile range, the largest artillery firing area in mainland Japan.

But the size of the area is a problem.

There are few fences to keep trespassers out and part of the area is “common” ground where local residents can enter and gather wood, pick up rocks, collect wild grasses and herbs, graze cattle or just hike.

During artillery exercises, the Japan forces stake out the target area. Sensors hooked into computers warn them when someone strays into the area.

“We know that this is far from being practical for our training purposes,” the spokesman said. “However, our priority is the safety of the community and we take all possible measures towards that end.”

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