NOVEMBER 30, 2020 – A Marine shouts, “Fire in the hole!”
The proclamation leads to a moment of stillness; silence fills what will soon be a blast site. A loud “whump” precedes an earth-shaking shockwave. Dirt lifts from the floor. One can feel a rattle in the center of their chest and an intense heat wave radiates through the air. A sound like thunder erupts and disappears into the Okinawan jungle.
The explosion was not an emergency – it was a late celebration for the Marine Corps’ 245th birthday. A celebration carried in the midst of the potential future of foreign ordnance exploitation.
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians from across III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installations Pacific gathered to participate in an ordnance exploitation proof of concept range on November 16 – 25 at Camp Schwab.
Participating EOD technicians were divided into four stations and tasked with the disassembly of a TOW 2F anti-tank missile to a component level. Each station was equipped with a specific gear loadout; light, medium, or heavy; representing scalable, expeditionary options when conducting exploitation operations. A light capability, what could conceivably fit in a backpack and large case. A medium capability, limited to the size of a joint material container. And lastly, a heavy capability, the full suite of tools transported via a quadcon, or mobile maintenance shelter. Each of these loadouts were tested during the range.
“We are able to pull together if necessary; to deploy forward, and be able to get the largest impact and the most information gain to produce intelligence.” Master Sgt. Gregory Newman, a Headquarters and Support Battalion EOD chief
A unique component of this training was the collaboration of different military occupational specialties.
EOD technicians have exclusive areas of expertise. This training enhanced the EOD technician’s abilities in gathering crucial information on foreign ordnance capabilities. The training not only refined the EOD technician’s extremely technical skillset, but also employed skillsets of other Marines to assist in the exploitation of explosive ordnance. Non-destructive inspection technicians, machinists, and microminiature repairers bridged the gap for EOD technicians, expanding their capabilities and allowing participants to capture data not previously available.
“We are able to pull together if necessary; to deploy forward, and be able to get the largest impact and the most information gain to produce intelligence,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Newman, an EOD chief with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “This is the first time a [collaborative] effort like this has been made to boost our abilities with ordnance exploitation.”
Machinists from General Support Maintenance Company, 3rd Marine Logistics Group typically perform duties in support of unit maintenance to include fabrication, repair, or modification of equipment. During this training, machinists used their specialized tools and computer programs to virtually render 3D models of the TOW 2F components. Also possessing advanced skills in additive and subtractive manufacturing, GSM personnel were able to quickly design the needed tool on the range, 3D print a plastic copy for testing, validate the characteristics of the tool, and then create a final version out of metal.
Much in the same way, participating NDI technicians and microminiature repairers were able to also execute their skills in novel ways. NDI techs from Marine Aircraft Logistics Squadron 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, utilized their skills of inspecting aircraft for defects and abnormalities to identify the projectile’s metallic elements and their inter-metallic compounds. Electronics Maintenance Company, 3rd MLG microminiature repairers, used their skills of monitoring and controlling electronic computer processing equipment to execute a variety of testing procedures to figure out what electrical components and functions are inside of the projectile. Combining the data collected by these specialties, the participants were able to compose a file accurately depicting the ordnance’s physical, chemical, metallic, and electronic characteristics for follow on testing by the science and technology field.
“The important thing is to re-enforce this type of behavior, creativity, and bring people from multiple communities across the [The Marine Air-Ground Task Force] to come together and solve this problem,” said Col. Jeffrey Hammond, commanding officer of H&S BN, MCIPAC. “Anything we can do to help them and encourage this type of creative thinking and creative problem solving. It’s what we should do, and we’re doing the best we can at MCIPAC.”
Master Sgt. Zachary Foster, the EOD Innovations Chief for 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, noted in regards to the quality and quantity of information that was obtained during this training. Although ordnance exploitation is a staple of Marine Corps EOD that is routinely trained to, the capabilities demonstrated here may have never existed without the initiative and input from microminiature repairers, machinists, and NDI technicians. Their enthusiasm was infectious as they were presented with problems quite outside of their typical duty, and demonstrated new and innovative ways to apply their current skill sets and expertise.
The range proved to contribute to the III MEF’s forward engaged posture in the Pacific by pouring even more strength and potential into its assets. In an environment of ever-evolving warfare and intelligence tactics, U.S. Marines will continue to prevail.
By Cpl. Christopher Madero | Marine Corps Installations Pacific