Training, experience saves lifes at hand grenade range
April 18, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The M67 hand grenade is a simple, but effective tool. Engineered to supplement small arms fire against enemies in close combat, the M67 has a lethal radius of 5 meters and can project fragments as far as 200 meters.
In short, you don't want to be around one when it goes off.
Staff Sgt. Baharri Weston, 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Brigade, doesn't have much choice about the time he spends around these weapons. As one of the noncommissioned officers tasked with operating and maintaining the Remagen Live Hand Grenade Range, he has spent a great deal of time getting to know how the M67 functions.
His experience paid off March 27 when a grenade slipped from the grip of a new Soldier training on the range. It was the second of two grenades the Soldier had thrown that day. Weston said the first throw was good.
"He went to throw his second grenade, and it landed in the pit, right in (a storage) can," he said. "We're taught that anytime a grenade goes out of the bay, we watch it to see where it lands and to make sure it goes off. As it went inside the can, I grabbed him and threw him outside the bay."
"It would have been catastrophic," said 1st Lt. Joseph Pena, executive officer of Company B, 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Brigade. "It would have killed both of them. They were wearing body armor, but had it gone off that close it would have killed them. Those grenades are pretty powerful."
These kinds of accidents are anticipated, Weston said. Instructors at the range have to maintain their training certifications through annual tests to ensure they know how to respond to these kinds of situations.
There is also a rubber "mulch pit" outside of the training bay that is used to shield Soldiers from the blast of a dropped hand grenade. That was where Weston moved the Soldier he was training during the March incident.
Weston covered the lower body of his student with his upper body armor to protect him and keep him from standing before the danger had passed. He said he had only a few seconds to react, which was "ample time."
"There were a good two or three seconds before the grenade actually went off," he said. "(The Soldier) was in shock. He didn't know what happened, and realized the grenade landed inside of the bay when he heard the boom."
"There was an extensive amount of shrapnel that would have caused a lot of injury," said Capt. Martin Vanderhoek, commander of Co. B, 4-10th. "Weston does this hundreds of times a week for thousands of Soldiers, and faces this risk every time he does it. This is a risk he faces every day."
Nobody was injured in the explosion, Pena said.
"After the grenade went off, a cease fire was called," he said. "The medic on site ran into the bay to assess the situation, and the Soldier and our cadre were evaluated by the medic, and there were no injuries."