By Mr. Keith Pannell (TRADOC)November 22, 2017
FORT SILL, Okla., Nov. 22, 2017 -- A father walking along Fort Sill's Medicine Creek with his young sons, picking up rocks and tossing them into the flowing water provided an idyllic setting on a warm early November Sunday morning.
But, that excursion could've ended in disaster when one of the children picked up a piece of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and threw it into the water.
Maj. Daniel Walker, Fires Center of Excellence commander's planning group, was less than 10 feet behind his sons, James, 6, and Mikey, 4, when James picked up what turned out to be a 40mm grenade.
"We were just walking on the creek bed by the RV Park, south of the bridge, when James picked up what I thought was another rock and threw it in the creek," Walker said. "As I walked by, I could see through the clear water that it was a 40 millimeter grenade. I had to do a double take because I knew what it was; it was just really out of context."
Walker immediately gathered his boys and ran up the bank, away from the water. He called Fort Sill Range Control to report the discovery. Within minutes, a host of military police and fire vehicles were on the scene, followed a little while later by a team from the 761st Explosive Ordnance Detachment (EOD).
Fort Sill has trained Soldiers for more than a century, and in the beginning, much of training was very close to what is now the Old Post Quadrangle and the surrounding area. 1st Lt. Peter Murphy, 761st EOD, said it's not uncommon for UXOs to be uncovered in areas other than open range land.
"Most of the UXOs on Fort Sill are found by construction workers or hunters who know what to look for and not to move or tamper with them," he said.
According to Fort Sill Fire Department statistics, three UXOs were discovered in 2016, two on West Range and one in the populated area outside Snow Hall. So far this year, two were found on the east side of the basic training area and then there was the one from Nov. 5. The 761st EOD responded to 26 UXO calls in 2016 with about one-third of those being nonexplosive.
Walker said James told him he picked up that "rock" because it was, "a neat metal thing."
Post safety officials said that's exactly what can get people hurt. UXOs come in all shapes and sizes and can look like a pointed pipe, soda can, baseball, or a muffler, and can be found lying on or buried in the ground. They can be exposed by erosion or fires. Old UXOs can look brand new, but all should be considered dangerous.
"Civilians, and especially children, need to be aware of the danger that these pose, and should know to leave them alone and contact the appropriate authorities when they are found," said Murphy.
In fact, Murphy would like to see spouses and family members receive the same required UXO training hunters receive before heading out to the range. And, he plans to start with the younger ones.
"I plan to get a few of my team leaders to accompany the fire department when they do their fire safety training for the schools on Fort Sill to spread awareness of the dangers of UXOs and how to avoid dangerous objects, Murphy said. "We also plan to place posters of UXOs in the schools and various places around Fort Sill. We are available to commands to conduct UXO training for Soldiers and their families, however, given the small size of our unit, we would need to schedule this around our own training availability."
Back at home, Walker doesn't plan to stop his walks with his boys. He logged onto the computer and searched pictures of various weapons that might be found on Fort Sill, and had a Sunday morning educational opportunity.
"While James knows more about the dangers of UXOs and what they can look like, he's glad he found that grenade because he believes he may have saved someone's life. They are still talking about it," Walker said.
Anyone who finds unexploded ordnance on post should call Range Control 24 hours a day at 580-442-2994/2008, or military police at 580-442-2101/2102.