FORT IRWIN, California – A team of U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians cleared 723 rounds from a U.S. Air Force training range in California’s Mojave Desert.
Three EOD Soldiers from the Fort Irwin, California-based 759th Ordnance Company (EOD) disposed of a wide variety of explosive items during the 13-hour range clearance mission at the Leach Lake Tactics Range.
Staff Sgt. Caleb S. Canales, Sgt. Dillon O. Fosnaugh and Spc. Brady L. Dunn found and destroyed the projectiles, including small arms ammunition, 20mm high explosive incendiary rounds, guided missile components, U.S. rocket warheads and motors, bomb fuses with white phosphorus, insensitive bulk high explosives and a few MK-82 500-pound bombs.
Located 23 miles from Fort Irwin, California, Leach Lake Tactics Range is used by Air Force forward air controllers, tactical air control parties, air liaison officers, special tactics team members and joint service personnel. The range is part of the Air Combat Command’s Nevada Test and Training Range.
The 759th EOD Company is assigned to the 3rd EOD Battalion, 71st EOD Group and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. Department of Defense’s premier all hazards formation.
Soldiers and U.S. Army civilians from the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-headquartered 20th CBRNE Command locate, confront and defeat the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.
The 759th EOD Company routinely conducts range clearance operations in support of the National Training Center where Army combat units hone their skills against opposition forces in the Mojave Desert across an area almost as large as the state of Rhode Island. The company also supports civil authorities when military munitions are discovered in 89 counties across California, Nevada and Arizona.
“Although Fort Irwin provides plenty of unexploded work, Leach Lake Range provided my team with an opportunity to see ordnance used by the Air Force,” said Canales, the EOD team leader who is originally from Corpus Christi, Texas. “I give credit for the success of the mission to Sgt. Dillon Fosnaugh and Spc. Brady Dunn. They not only prepared the tools and vehicle but they also handled the plotting of grid coordinates and logistics with the civilian range contractors.”
A seasoned EOD team leader who has defeated improvised explosive devices in Iraq, Canales said this mission was the first range clearance operation he had participated in with only one EOD team.
Recognized as a 20th CBRNE Command Defender of the Month for his efforts, Canales was also involved in testing two Unmanned Aerial Systems for EOD missions, including route reconnaissance, IED defeat, night time operations and unexploded ordnance identification and disposal.
“The capabilities of both drones were remarkable and both showed an ability to help future EOD techs,” said Canales.
Capt. Jacob S. Rafalson, the commander of the 759th EOD Company, said the range clearance mission demonstrated the ingenuity, agility and tenacity of his EOD technicians.
“Staff Sergeant Canales and his EOD team did a tremendous job of being flexible and accomplishing the mission on short notice,” said Rafalson, a six-year U.S. Army veteran from Lake Zurich, Illinois, who has deployed once to Afghanistan and three times to Africa for humanitarian demining training missions.
“Every day, our EOD techs stand ready to keep the world’s premier ground combat training center safe from explosive hazards,” said Rafalson. “On this mission, we helped to enable lethality for our partners in the U.S. Air Force.”