CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - The ammunition handlers from Headquarters Support Company, 277th Aviation Support Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade teamed up with Sailors from the Navy Explosive Ordnance Detachment May 11 to dispose of some damaged rockets - by blowing them up.
"We get ammo turn-ins from other units," explained Sgt. George Tucker, ammunition yard noncommissioned officer in charge for the COB Speicher Ammunition Transfer Holding Point. "[The ammunition] gets inspected, and from that inspection they tell us whether or not it's still useable."
Tucker said many things could render a rocket unserviceable.
"Being banged, dropped - any little thing," he said. "If a fin is bent, we have to get rid of those. They can't be fired, and it would be dangerous to our aircraft if we continue to try to use them."
Once it is determined that a rocket or round is defective, Tucker said, they set it aside for later destruction.
"These are live explosives," he explained, saying that even though they are unserviceable, they could still cause a lot of damage. "We need to make sure they're not just laying somewhere where anyone can get to the ammo and use it for their own means."
That's where the EOD technicians come in. Stationed here on COB Speicher, their main mission is responding to Improvised Explosive Device encounters and destroying weapons' caches; but, EOD team leader Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Lynch said, helping the Army get rid of unserviceable munitions benefits everybody involved.
"We're getting rid of spent rounds and staying proficient in our ability to do demolitions," Lynch explained. "And for [the ammunition handlers], it gives them a chance to get off the base and get out here. They work with this ordnance a lot, but they don't really get to see what it does. This allows them to stay at a safe distance and watch. It's a good time, and a morale booster."
After transporting the damaged munitions - 23 HA-11 flechette and 24 HA-12 high explosive rockets - to Memorial Range here, the "ammo dogs" got to watch and learn as the EOD team placed the munitions, covered the load with 275 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive and wired it for detonation. Once the munitions were wired and ready to go, everyone moved back to the safety of up-armored vehicles positioned a kilometer away.
Soldiers kept their eyes on the detonation site and were rewarded when, after a quick countdown by Lynch, a massive fireball erupted from the pit.
"It was very entertaining," said Spc. Kelvin Conyers. "This was the first time I've seen the HA-12 [high-explosive rocket] explode - that's something you don't see every day, and I got to experience it."
While it was a novel experience for the Soldiers, it's another day's work for the EOD Sailors. Still, Lynch said, the thrill of blowing things up never fades.
"It's never the same-old, same-old," he said. "There's always something new, always something you have to worry about. When it starts getting boring, that's when it starts getting dangerous."