Engineers respond to UXO on jobsite
January 18, 2010
- Quick response to UXO helps keep Soldiers safe from danger
BAGHDAD - Engineers of the 317th Engineer Company discovered an unexploded ordnance (UXO) while leveling a 32-acre field on Victory Base Complex, Jan. 12.
Thanks to the acute situational awareness and quick response of the engineer Soldiers, the UXO was safely detonated and the engineers were back to work by the next morning.
The live Chinese Type 69 Bouncing 75mm RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) was uncovered by Spc. Eric Bolyn, of Elwood, Ill., shortly after lunch. The RPG, designed to bounce to about chest high and fire about 800 steel balls over a 15 meter radius, did not explode after being fired
Sgt. Justin Sikma, Bourbonnais, Ill., non-commissioned officer-in-charge at the project site, was first to spot the UXO and immediately took steps to shut down work.
"I was just walking over to check on his [Spc. Bolyn] progress, when I looked down and saw something that didn't look right," said Sikma.
After stopping the scraper, Sikma confirmed the UXO from a safe distance by using the magnification from the optic sight on his rifle.
"It was hard to spot. It was covered in dirt and painted olive drab green. It blended right into the ground," said Sikma.
Spotting the UXO was especially difficult because the area the engineer Soldiers are leveling had once been used as a dumping site, so forgotten scraps of concertina wire and broken concrete lay everywhere.
According to Sikma, before the mission began, visibility was limited to about five meters away in any direction due to small hills, covered in brush - an obstacle course any drill sergeant would be proud of.
The area, swampy and overrun with foliage, is crisscrossed by two creeks. Ten foot high reeds hide mounds of dirt and damaged Hesco barriers that once formed part of the base's perimeter.
The Soldiers are now working hard to make the area visible from six hundred meters away.
"We probably pushed thousands of tons of dirt and debris all over this field," said Sikma.
All of this movement of dirt leaves no question about the kinds of things that might be unearthed. The particular type of UXO that was found has been in production since the 1980s, so it is difficult to say how long it had been there.
Once the Soldiers confirmed the UXO from a safe distance, the project site was completely shut down and Sikma took the appropriate steps to ensure the UXO was properly marked and reported.
"I marked the UXO with four orange cones and pulled everyone back 400 meters, and then I called up a UXO Spot Report and waited for the EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] team," said Sikma.
By morning, EOD had finished detonating the RPG round and Sikma's squad was back on the project site.
"It just goes to show that you can't become complacent, even inside the Forward Operating Base you can find yourself facing something dangerous," said Sikma.