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Chief Petty Officer Isaac Callicrate monitors a bomb-removal robot as it climbs stairs during a drill at the Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, post office.
Chief Petty Officer Isaac Callicrate monitors a bomb-removal robot as it climbs stairs during a drill at the Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, post office. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Chief Petty Officer Isaac Callicrate monitors a bomb-removal robot as it climbs stairs during a drill at the Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, post office.
Chief Petty Officer Isaac Callicrate monitors a bomb-removal robot as it climbs stairs during a drill at the Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, post office. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Yokosuka Middle School student Morgan Ashley, 13, watches Chief Petty Officer Isaac Callicrate and the bomb-removal robot.
Yokosuka Middle School student Morgan Ashley, 13, watches Chief Petty Officer Isaac Callicrate and the bomb-removal robot. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Lt. Benjamin Cipperly, right, reviews an X-ray with Petty Officer 1st Class Keith Pierson during a bomb disposal drill at Yokosuka Naval Base’s post office.
Lt. Benjamin Cipperly, right, reviews an X-ray with Petty Officer 1st Class Keith Pierson during a bomb disposal drill at Yokosuka Naval Base’s post office. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Smith watches the video feed from a camera attached to a robot during the improvised explosive device drill.
Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Smith watches the video feed from a camera attached to a robot during the improvised explosive device drill. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The box says “Merry Christmas” like the thousands of other packages passing through the Yokosuka Naval Base Post Office this time of year.

But what if this one — found addressed to the base’s commanding officer with no postage on it — contained a bomb?

“Opening three pounds of dynamite on your desk makes for one bad day,” said Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 Detachment leading Chief Petty Officer Isaac Callicrate.

If a package looks like it’s going to spread more than holiday cheer, the base’s EOD unit rolls in for a closer look. In a recent post office simulation, the “Merry Christmas” box contained three sticks of training TNT and a switch that would trip upon opening.

“We want to make the situation as realistic as possible,” Callicrate said. “In this case, we were dealing with a suspicious package that ended up an improvised explosive device.”

The clock started ticking and the mobile unit moved to the post office. A radio-controlled robot was the first to approach the package.

Outfitted with several cameras, the robot’s primary job is reconnaissance. Its extending, articulating arms pick up and grab things and are controlled by a joystick.

Robots are used to “maximize survivability” here and in units in Iraq, Callicrate said.

“It keeps the primary operator down-site,” Callicrate said. “But the robot doesn’t have the full awareness or manipulation skills of a human.”

Enter Petty Officer 1st Class Keith Pierson in a bomb suit — a 100-pound coat of armor so heavy and hot it has its own cooling system. After the robot brought the package outside, Pierson X-rayed it. Because it contained explosives, it was taken to a safe location for disposal.

The EOD unit used water to disrupt the bomb, said Lt. Ben Cipperley, the unit’s officer in charge. The high-pressure water moves so fast that the box dissolves, leaving only parts. Plus water makes less mess and causes little collateral damage.

“It gets things wet, but then the water dissipates,” Cipperley said.

The exercise took about two hours from start to finish.

“With training, we’re always identifying things we need to work on,” Callicrate said. “In general, it went pretty well.”

Besides handling improvised explosive devices, EOD works with other types of unexploded ordnance such as chemical, biological, undersea and nuclear weapons. Yokosuka’s eight-person detachment covers 32 installations, as EOD has joint service agreements with the Air Force and Army.

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