PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - The three sirens before the first detonation were reminiscent of warnings given to villagers in an old World War II film. Shortly after the shots were prepared and the bystanders hid in cover, the sound of the explosion sent a shot of adrenaline into the bodies of the Soldiers causing them to hurry their feet along to the remains of the rocks which had just been shattered.
As exciting as this may sound, it was all part of an exercise and at no time were any lives in danger of being lost. The exercise was part of a demonstration done for 11 Fort Bragg, N.C., Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division who visited the here on their third stop of a week-long tour of Research, Development and Engineering Command organizations July 16.
"The purpose of the visit was to demonstrate to these Soldiers how the tools and weapons used in combat are tested and developed," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Ossen, one of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center explosive ordnance disposal staff noncommissioned officers here who led the tour.
The explosion came from a test demonstration conducted with four blocks of TNT in Picatinny's desolate gorge area during the later part of the day's tour.
Spcs. Adam Nystrom and Aaron Cummings of the 82nd Airborne entered a large hole approximately 10 feet in diameter and five feet deep. Neither had ever handled TNT before and the tension and nerves were easily visible as they listened to Ossen and fellow Picatinny EOD Soldier Staff Sgt. Christopher Combs instruct them on how to set the time fuse.
Once everything was in place, and all the bystanders were protected in a nearby bunker, Cummings and Nystrom pulled the igniters on the time fuses and scurried away not realizing there was still a good three minutes before detonation.
Upon returning to the hole to examine the destruction, several of the larger boulders had been reduced to nothing more than rubble, and the smiles on the Soldiers' faces expressed pure joy.
"None of my buddies back at Bragg are gonna believe me," Nystrom said excitedly, adding a mimic of one of his fellow Soldiers back at Fort Bragg by saying, "You went to Pica-Where and did Pica-What'"
Fort Bragg is where the 82nd Airborne Division calls home. The unit prides itself with being able to strategically deploy and conduct forcible parachute entry into any given location at a moment's notice to secure objectives in part of military operations and support the interests of the United States.