NEVADA TEST AND TRAINING RANGE, Nev. – U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians teamed up to destroy a 12,000-pound missile cache.
EOD Soldiers from the Fort Irwin, California-based 759th Ordnance Company (EOD) and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri-based 763rd EOD Company worked with EOD Airmen from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and Marine Corps EOD technicians from the Camp Hansen, Japan-based 3rd EOD Company during the range clearance operation.
The 759th EOD Company is part of 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. The 763rd Ordnance Company (EOD) is assigned to the 242nd EOD Battalion, 71st EOD Group and 20th CBRNE Command.
The former 759th EOD Company first sergeant, 1st Sgt. James R. Bohanon, who serves at the 763rd EOD Company, brought some of his Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri-based EOD Soldiers to participate in the mission.
According to 1st Lt. Matthew J. Harbison, the operations officer for the 759th EOD Company, the clearance operation was the result of a relationship formed at the Senior Leaders Course when Sgt. 1st Class Joseph M. Luciano met another leader who was looking for a way to dispose of a large amount of munitions.
“Once we got an idea of how many munitions needed to be disposed of, we began looking for places to execute the mission,” said Harbison. “The Nevada Test and Training Range had a reputation of conducting very large shots, so we reached out to them.”
“We had 50 personnel out on the range,” said Harbison. “The vast majority were Active Duty EOD techs from the Air Force, Army and Marines. The civilians that were out there are the ones who helped us coordinate having the space out at Nevada Test and Training Range. They are former EOD techs as well, so they were very excited to be involved.”
Harbison said the missiles were railroaded from end-to-end and destroyed with C4 explosives.
The crater from the blast was 40-feet long, 20-feet wide and 5-feet deep.
Originally from St. Louis, Harbison joined the Army in 2010 and served as a paratrooper and cryptologic linguist with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, and deployed to Afghanistan. After briefly getting out of the Army and graduating from college, he was then commissioned as an Army EOD officer.
Harbison said EOD technicians always welcome the opportunity to hone their life-saving and mission-enabling skills together during operations and exercises.
All U.S. military EOD technicians are trained together at the joint service Naval EOD School on Elgin Air Force Base in Pensacola, Florida.
“As EOD techs, we relish every opportunity to train, no matter what branch we belong to, so we try to make sure we give as much opportunity to others as possible when we have a good training opportunity arise,” said Harbison.
“The highlight of the mission was the interaction and cooperation with the dozens of techs,” said Harbison. “It's always great to meet people with similar interest but varied experiences. During this operation, many new friends and contacts were made across the branches and many stories were shared which adds to each individual’s experience.”
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel E. Solon, the section chief for EOD training at the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron on Nellis Air Force Base, said all EOD technicians have the same basic training and capabilities but unique specialties and experiences that they bring to the table.
A native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, with 21 years of service in the Air Force, Solon earned an Army Combat Action Badge on Army route clearance patrols in Afghanistan.
“Being able to get 50 EOD techs from three services together, even if just for two days, is a great experience,” said Solon. “Any time a group of EOD techs is together, a tremendous amount of networking occurs.”
In addition to defeating explosive hazards to enable air operations with multiple airframes on Nellis Air Force Base, Solon said his Air Force EOD technicians also support major exercises like Red Flag that bring together allied Air Forces from around the world.
Air Force EOD technicians routinely work with other service EOD technicians on the Nevada Test and Training Range, which is about 45 minutes north of Las Vegas.
“The Nevada Test and Training Range is one of the largest live-fire aircraft range complexes in the world with over three million acres and is home to two of the largest live submunition targets,” said Solon. “The Nellis Air Force Base EOD Flight spends a considerable amount of time during a given year clearing dud-fired ordnance from the bombing range and we often have personnel from other Air Force bases and other services temporarily assigned here to help with the clearance and to get experience with demolition of live ordnance.
“There are few places where any EOD tech can routinely encounter and blow up live Mk-82 500-pound and Mk-84 2,000-pound bombs or hundreds of BLU-97 submunitions,” said Solon. “Nellis is one of them.”