Osan ordnance unit disposes of mock munitions
OSAN AIR BASE — At any moment his people would pull up in their bomb disposal trucks and Master Sgt. Steven Temme would get to see what they’d do with the mock chemical weapons lying in the grass nearby.
Temme, chief of the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, and his troops were taking part in a U.S. Air Force combat readiness exercise here, and at other points around South Korea, this week.
“They’re gonna be working hands-on with a chemical munition and I’ve got to see if they know how to deal with it without getting contaminated themselves,” Temme said shortly before they pulled up.
Just before 4 p.m., Temme’s airmen, wearing gas masks and chemical protective suits, arrived, unloaded the needed gear and began.
Step one was to carefully, systematically, get a fix on what type of dangerous device they might be dealing with.
For the scenario, two-round, coconut-sized steel balls lay about 15 yards apart in a grassy area beside a concrete taxiway.
They were training aids simulating Soviet-made chemical bomblets that disperse in a cluster over a target area, Temme said.
An airman playing one of those who found the devices briefed the team on what they looked like and where they were.
A team member then photographed the steel balls while others conferred on what they might be and how best to deal with them.
With a plan worked out, they brought decontamination kits, blue plastic buckets and other gear to within a few yards of the devices.
Then one airman, with slow, deliberate movements, lifted the steel ball into a blue plastic bucket of water.
Moments later, he and another airman got it into a plastic bag, sealed it, and got ready to deal with the second device.
About 40 minutes had passed from the time they’d pulled up.
Temme wanted them to follow safe procedures but also to keep up the pace, reminding them in a real-world situation, getting the taxiway reopened would have a “high priority.”
“You know it’s not going to blow up,” he told them quietly. “It’s not going to go anywhere. So go ahead and put it in the can.”
Temme continued observing. Satisfied they’d shown proper grasp of the right methods, he gave the word to wrap up.
“This is basically practice for when you come across the real-world stuff,” said Senior Airman Michael Fink, 27, of Sumter, S.C.
“We do this. We take care of it. It’s our job. We have to know it. We have to practice it.”
“It really helps me learning to work with them as a team, kind of managing the situation,” said Staff Sgt. Mandie Webb, 23, of Fresno, Calif.
“We kind of work to check each other. When you have a good team, they can kind of reinforce when you’re on the right track … or help you get back on the right track.”
After the event, Temme said he was “definitely satisfied” with the team’s work.
“There’s a few areas they need to improve on. And they were a little bit slow. But overall it was definitely a passing grade.”
Next week he’ll help them learn from this week’s exercise, including Wednesday afternoon’s scenario.
“For this entire exercise,” said Temme, “I take notes, and I’ll sit down this weekend — while they’re all having fun — and I’ll prepare my report.”