CATHLAMET, Wash. – U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians responded to a potentially dangerous unexploded round at a museum.
Army EOD Soldiers from the 707th Ordnance Company (EOD) “Thunderbirds” were called by the Washington State Police Bomb Squad when the Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum discovered an old round that lacked the proper safety paperwork.
Staff Sgt. Eric D. Steuby, the EOD team leader, from Ruston, Washington; 1st Lt. Trevor C. Bachus from Springfield, Missouri; Sgt. Dominick A. Rivera from Mack, Colorado; and Sgt. 1st Class William R. Phillips from Mount Vernon, Washington, travelled almost two hours to the museum to respond to the call.
After various tests, the EOD team leader determined that the round did not contain any explosive hazards and confirmed that it was a Type 100, 81mm Japanese Mortar.
Steuby was able to return the mortar to the museum and update the paperwork for the item, ensuring the safety of the staff and visitors to the museum that documents the cultural, economic, political and social history of the county and other cities, towns and villages near the mouth of the Columbia River.
Capt. Connor J. McCarty, the commander of the 707th EOD Company, said the EOD team responded after coordinating with the Wahkiakum County Sheriff Department for support.
“The museum was verifying its inventory and ensuring it had the required paperwork to house inert military munitions. This item was not on the inventory and did not have any corresponding paperwork,” said McCarty, a U.S. Military Academy West Point graduate from North Smithfield, Rhode Island, who has served in South Korea.
“They reached out to the state police to try to get an assessment on the munition,” said McCarty. “However, the state police bomb squad is not authorized to work on military munitions due to the Military Munitions Rule in the Code of Federal Regulations.”
The Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington-based 707th EOD Company Thunderbirds are part of the 3rd EOD Battalion, 71st EOD Group and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. military’s premier multifunctional all hazards command.
From 19 bases in 16 states, Soldiers and U.S. Army civilians from the 20th CBRNE Command tackle the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.
EOD units from 20th CBRNE Command routinely deploy to the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operations while supporting U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercises and Defense Support to Civil Authorities missions for U.S. Northern Command.
Army EOD Soldiers also respond when military munitions are discovered, both on and off post. In 2021, 20th CBRNE Command EOD units participated in 1,415 explosive mitigation missions on military installations and 276 missions off base.
EOD technicians from 20th CBRNE Command also conducted 443 Very Important Person Protection Support Activity missions in 2021, providing protection to the president, first lady, vice president and foreign heads of states.
McCarty said the 707th EOD Company assumed the homeland response mission on Sept. 1, 2022.
“Historically, 707th will respond to 100 calls annually in support of various entities both civilian and military,” said McCarty, adding that the Thunderbirds cover 75 counties across Washington, Oregon and Northern California.
According to 1st Sgt. Jeremy M. Walsh, the senior enlisted leader of the 707th EOD Company, the company just returned from a seven-month deployment to Iraq in June.
The Thunderbirds supported the Special Operations Advisory Group and provided conventional EOD support to the 4th Infantry Division, said Walsh, an Oroville, California, native who has deployed to Iraq three times and Afghanistan twice during his 18 years in the U.S. Army.
“We ran over 500 missions while deployed to Iraq,” said Walsh, adding the EOD company supported coalition and partner training events, disposed of unexploded ordnance and responded to Unmanned Aerial System attacks during the deployment.