EOD Marines have an "explosive" time at Fort Pickett

29 Mar 2001 | Cpl. Thomas Michael Corcoran

Along with the rest of MEU Service Support Group-26, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines arrived at Fort Pickett, Va., ready to train March 25. This training is extremely important to EOD. It's not everyday or even every deployment they get to test their tactics in a new environment or support other units' exercises with their skills, according to 1st Lt. Thomas J. Schmidt, MSSG-26 Engineer Support Platoon commander. Because of the deployment schedule, EOD does non-stop back-to-back floats. "There's only three MSSGs and there's always one working up, always one in the water and the other one is reconstituting," said Schmidt. "There's an 85 percent turnover from last float so we're also getting the Marines spun up on their other requirements such as medical and annual training." Because of EOD's opportunity to get out and train so soon in the workups, Schmidt said it should prepare them for their job more than the other two MSSGs. Schmidt explained most of their training would be job-specific basic demolition that moves on to more advanced training. He said the training would run in two phases. The first phase is MSSG level internal support, the second phase supports the Battalion Landing Team and the Air Combat Element in their operations. The EOD team used the demolition ranges at Fort Pickett to support counter mobility exercises. By using their ability to destroy, the Marines are also able to create impassable routes and blockades. Schmidt explained that one of their most common blockades is done with trees. The charges are set halfway up various trees along a path; the charges are placed so the trees fall in a specific direction. By leaving such large stumps in the ground the obstacle becomes almost impossible to clear. Aside from making tree obstacles, they also learn to cut metal as would be needed for destroying bridges or railroad tracks; create craters, whether for obstacles or fighting holes; and make booby traps for use against troop movements or vehicles. The Marines use C-4 (plastic explosive), dynamite and det-cord which is cord made from explosive material. They also have a variety of detonation methods including electric and non-electric blasting caps and multipurpose firing devices that Schmidt said are used mostly for booby traps, and radio controlled detonation devices. Most of the Marines here know what explosive they would use to blow a bridge, said Staff Sgt. William A. Scott, MSSG-26 EOD technician. But, he said now they will get an idea of how much to use and its specific effect on the metal. "This training is showing them what it actually does to what they're going to be using it on," said Scott, a native of Aurora, Colo. "They're going to be able to take the experience they're getting here and use it in an actual combat environment." Schmidt said he and his Marines are having a great time. He said they don't like getting caught up in all the administrative stuff in the rear, they enjoy being out here performing their job, the reason they joined the Marine Corps. "I know I'm having a good time," said Schmidt. "No paperwork in two days!"