Support our mission
 
Senior Airman Michael Fink places a mock enemy chemical device in a bucket of water during combat readiness exercise at Osan Air Base, South Korea Wednesday. The weeklong exercise involves U.S. Air Force units around South Korea. Fink is an explosive ordanance disposal airman with the 51st Fighter Wing.
Senior Airman Michael Fink places a mock enemy chemical device in a bucket of water during combat readiness exercise at Osan Air Base, South Korea Wednesday. The weeklong exercise involves U.S. Air Force units around South Korea. Fink is an explosive ordanance disposal airman with the 51st Fighter Wing. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
Senior Airman Michael Fink places a mock enemy chemical device in a bucket of water during combat readiness exercise at Osan Air Base, South Korea Wednesday. The weeklong exercise involves U.S. Air Force units around South Korea. Fink is an explosive ordanance disposal airman with the 51st Fighter Wing.
Senior Airman Michael Fink places a mock enemy chemical device in a bucket of water during combat readiness exercise at Osan Air Base, South Korea Wednesday. The weeklong exercise involves U.S. Air Force units around South Korea. Fink is an explosive ordanance disposal airman with the 51st Fighter Wing. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
Explosive ordnance disposal troops of the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, confer behind a vehicle Wednesday on how to best handle removal of two mock enemy chemical devices lying in grass near a taxiway.
Explosive ordnance disposal troops of the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, confer behind a vehicle Wednesday on how to best handle removal of two mock enemy chemical devices lying in grass near a taxiway. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
Explosive Ordnance Disposal troops at Osan Air Base, South Korea, practice coping with mock enemy chemical devices. The training was part of a weeklong U.S. Air Force combat readiness exercise in South Korea. At left is Airman 1st Class Nathan Lund, wrapping the chemical device in plastic. At right is Senior Airman Michael Fink. Both are with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight of the 51st Engineer Squadron, part of Osan's 51st Fighter Wing.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal troops at Osan Air Base, South Korea, practice coping with mock enemy chemical devices. The training was part of a weeklong U.S. Air Force combat readiness exercise in South Korea. At left is Airman 1st Class Nathan Lund, wrapping the chemical device in plastic. At right is Senior Airman Michael Fink. Both are with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight of the 51st Engineer Squadron, part of Osan's 51st Fighter Wing. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
During explosive ordnance disposal training at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Senior Airman Michael Fink holds a simulated, Soviet-style chemical bomblet Wednesday during a delicate stage of the removal process.
During explosive ordnance disposal training at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Senior Airman Michael Fink holds a simulated, Soviet-style chemical bomblet Wednesday during a delicate stage of the removal process. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

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.”

Migrated

stars and stripes videos


around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up