MIDDLE EAST --
While looking into the vast expanse of the desert, it’s hard to fathom anyone spending more than a few minutes out there, let alone working with unexploded ordnance (UXO) for hours, if not days, on end.
That’s just what eight explosive ordnance technicians, one radio operator and one Navy corpsman from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit did from Nov. 14-17. For four days straight the team combed the seemingly endless desert in the Middle East for any potentially hazardous UXO.
“This range is huge,” commented Gunnery Sgt. Steven Sheals, the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) detachment officer-in-charge.
The range sweep was an essential step in ensuring the safety of the range for future exercises.
“We’re conducting surface range clearing to ensure there are no UXO range hazards out here for when the (Battalion Landing Team) comes out here for their training,” Sheals said.
He continued, “By removing the UXOs we remove that hazard to make the range safe.”
After four long days of walking up and down the range, the team consolidated all of the UXO they found and safely detonated it.
“This detachment that I have here has a wealth of knowledge; most of the guys have two or more deployments in the (Operation Iraqi Freedom) Theater,” he said, adding his Marines work from sunup till sundown to complete the mission. He said they are given a task and a timetable, and if that means they have to work all day for days on end to get the mission done, then that’s what they do.
In the end, the entire course of action focused on safety; not only the safety of those detonating the UXO, but ultimately, on the safety of those who would come after the detonations were long extinguished.
“You have to do your best to make sure no one gets hurt during training,” said Sgt. Robert Pippin, an EOD technician. "We’re trying to make the range a safer place for when the BLT comes out here to do their training tomorrow and for the rest of the week."
The 26th MEU is currently forward deployed aboard the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf in support of local operations.