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Gunnery Sgt. Gage CoDuto looks at an old shell on Range 7 aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico on Oct. 30, 2013. The Marines, all Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians, conducted a range sweep to clear the range of unexploded ordnance.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Ellis

Sweeping without a broom: Marines accomplish possibly fatal chore

30 Oct 2013 | Lance Cpl. Samuel Ellis Marine Corps Base Quantico

“Digging,” yelled Gunnery Sgt. Gage CoDuto, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, from a water-eroded crater on Range 7, aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico on Oct. 30, 2013.

CoDuto was one of 11 Marines participating in a range sweep, an event where explosive experts occupy a target range and look for unexploded ordnances.

With his exclamation, the EOD tech alerted his peers that he had located and was delicately uncovering a potential find.

“We are clearing the surface of the impact area, which is basically just removing ordinance that hasn’t detonated,” said Capt. Jeremiah Hamric, EOD officer-in-charge. “We don’t want rounds coming in and hitting other rounds causing secondary detonations.”

Master Gunnery Sgt. Tanos Chavez, operations chief, explained why unexploded ordnance, left alone, could be dangerous.

“If we didn’t conduct the range sweeps, a civilian contractor would have to do it or the ordnance would build up to a point where it would literally be everywhere,” said Chavez. “That would pose a hazard during controlled burns or if Marines had to maneuver out here.”

According to experts, 10 percent of all ordnance does not detonate, due to operator or manufacturer error. To maintain safe ranges, the Marines “sweep” the three Quantico ranges and grenade pits where rounds larger than .50 caliber, including artillery rounds, missiles and bombs, are discharged.

“Our job is explosive ordnance disposal,” said Chavez. “So to come out here and see rounds that didn’t go off, to identify why or how they didn’t go off and to destroy them is good training.”

After identifying the rounds, the Marines from the Quantico EOD team and the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, Naval Station Indian Head, Md., marked the areas and set up C4 charges, called shots, to remove them.

“We are out marking and consolidating what can be moved into piles so we can set up shots,” said Chavez. “We will set charges and explosively reduce the hazards out here.”

Some may wonder if there are other disposal methods that can be used. Marines are directed by legal regulation on how they can dispose the ordnances.

“Not everything is legal,” said Hamric. “Following the Military Munitions Rule, we use the safest and most preferred method for disposal.”


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