By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsOctober 19, 2017
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 19, 2017) -- Soldiers from 754th Ordnance Company (EOD), 192nd Ordnance Battalion, 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade, are active in communities around Fort Drum, and the support they extend is unique to their profession.
Recently, teams of explosive ordnance disposal technicians responded to mutual aid requests to recover a World War II-era hand grenade in Auburn and a riot control grenade and unexploded projectile in Watertown.
While some might call this vital community service, the technical term is Defense Support of Civil Authorities, or DSCA. It authorizes U.S. military forces and Department of Defense personnel to assist in domestic emergencies.
"It is literally part of our job to support local law enforcement if there are explosive hazards involved," said Capt. Cameron Fraser, company executive officer. "Anytime there is military ordnance suspected, law enforcement will call us because it is basically the Army's responsibility."
Fraser said that there is always a team on duty 24/7 to respond to such calls.
"We treat each situation as if it were a hazard until we know for sure it is not," he said. "A simple hand grenade might just be a practice body (replica) or a real grenade."
He recalled an incident on Long Island that ended up being a rusted old home appliance washed up ashore.
"It might have looked like some sort of bomb or something to them, but it was probably just an old water heater or something," he said. "That happens periodically, but we take it all very seriously because you never know."
There was an incident this summer where local officials debated whether an item left in Watertown's Thompson Park was a prank or a piece of artwork. Either way, law enforcement notified Fort Drum's EOD unit to confirm it contained no dangerous materials. In May, a grenade was discovered at the Urban Mission in Watertown, which required EOD support to inspect and safely remove the item.
First Lt. Claire Henkel, operations officer, said that people sometimes donate bags and boxes of old household items without always knowing the exact content inside, or realizing that a particular item -- antique as it seems -- may be a hazard.
She said that sometimes people simply don't know what to do with it, so they donate it.
"A lot of areas that served as World War II training sites will turn up an item every now and then," Fraser said. "People collect things that they think are safe, or they'll find a souvenir in their grandpa's attic."
Fraser said that the 754th Ordnance Company handles situations involving military ordnance mostly within New York state, but they can dispatch a team anywhere from northern Pennsylvania to Maine.
Henkel said that summers are usually the busiest time for EOD, because people are outdoors more and there are more construction projects scheduled where ordnance may be unearthed.
"We probably average about three calls for support a week in the summer," Henkel said. "In the winter, we could probably receive none for several weeks in a row."
Henkel said that if someone suspects an object to be unexploded ordnance, it is important not to move it. Fraser said to immediately call 911 so that local law enforcement can request mutual aid support from Fort Drum.
"They should first call 911, because it has to go through local law enforcement and military police before we respond," he said. "I think it is good for people to know that this is something we do and that we are available to the community."