FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- A company of Marines moves from one training area to another on foot. As they come over a ridge, one Marine nearly trips over something sticking out of the ground. Unaware that he is in an impact area, and that he just kicked the tail fin of an 81mm mortar, the Marine pauses nervously unsure if the rest of this explosive round was buried in the dirt beneath him.
If this scenario really happened and the mortar round was there and still active, that Marine could have lost his life and the lives of all the Marines around him.
To prevent a tragic accident like this from happening, six explosive ordnance disposal technicians clear the training ranges here to ensure the safety of the Marines.
"If Marines set up camp somewhere and one of them happens to find unexploded ordnance, it is our job to go in and clear it," explained Staff Sgt. Sean Lamer, an EOD technician with the Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 26, 26th MEU.
Although EOD supports all elements of the MEU the mission of this team at Fort A.P. Hill is based upon the mission of the MSSG, to support Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 8th Marine Regiment. More specifically, EOD safeguards the Marines by clearing and disposing of all unexploded ordnance in a training area.
Prior to a unit landing in an area that could potentially contain live ordnance, EOD technicians spend hours locating, collecting and eliminating these hazards.
When the EOD Marines gather all the ordnance from one area into a pile, they rig it for detonation using a detonator, blasting cap, C-4 explosives and a fuse cord.
The techs use a fuse cord to delay the detonation long enough for them to take cover from the blast's concussion and effects.
Once the C-4 and blasting cap are set in place, all it takes is a push, twist and pull of the detonator and the fuse begins to burn closer to the blasting cap.
As the pile detonates, Marines watch from a distance to ensure the detonation is complete. After the explosion, the technicians remain silent listening carefully for any possible debris that might come toward them.
Finally the technicians give the "all clear" and visually inspect the blast zone to verify it's safety, then they load up and head for another area.
With the area clear of ordnance, Marines can continue training with one less risk to worry about.
At Fort A.P. Hill while clearing ranges, the MEU EOD techs found .50 caliber machine gun rounds, 40mm high explosive rounds and 2.75mm rockets.
These Marines are part of a small occupational field, one that allows corporals and senior Marines to enter from other job specialties, according to Staff Sgt. Troy McNeal, an EOD technician with MSSG-26.
Marines interested in joining EOD can speak with their command career planner about the possibility of making a lateral move. For more information about MSSG 26 or the 26th MEU, visit them on the web at www.26meu.usmc.mil.