EOD Airmen remove 35 tons of ordnance from range

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Explosive ordnance disposal Airmen from the 366th Civil Engineering Squadron were joined by fellow EOD Airmen from nine different bases to perform the annual range clearance at Saylor Creek and Juniper Butte Range complexes, Idaho.

Members from the 366th Fighter Wing and other units have spent the past year dropping more than 35 tons of munitions at targets throughout the range complexes. Across the globe, millions of pounds of ammunition are dropped on ranges in order to assist in vital training for military members.

"The purpose of this range clearance is to remove munitions, unexploded ordnance and dummy bombs which have been dropped by the multiple military units across the globe who have utilized our range throughout the past year," said Tech. Sgt. Lawrence Saterfield, 366th Civil Engineering Squadron noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Explosive Ordnance Disposal plans. "The logistics phase began about six months ago and included things like coordinating dates with Air Combat Command, ensuring we had the required amount of personnel to complete the mission as well as the correct amount of vehicles to handle the difficult terrain throughout the entire month."

EOD personnel used military vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to clear approximately 2,106 munitions across 124,000 acres of range.

"Staff Sgt. Jonathan Winter and I performed an aerial survey of the ranges in order to do a pre-assessment of the ranges and see how saturated they were," said Saterfield. "We used the helicopter to pull out some of the extremely large bombs which can be too much for the trucks to handle."

Across the ranges there are various targets which must be maintained in order for the range to continue to be useful for training purposes.

"It's important to remove any munitions debris from the target areas so the contractors can fix or replace them," said Staff Sgt. William Roberts, 366th CES NCO in charge of EOD equipment. "Throughout the years we have refined a process allowing us to cover every single inch of the range by using GPS coordinates and marking flags.

"We like to start at the northeast corner and work our way south toward the more heavily used target areas," he continued. "Each day we pick up wherever we left off the previous day and get the vehicles on line and continue the sweep. The Juniper Butte range is an electronic targeting range which makes things a little tricky but there are specific target areas there where we find hundreds of rounds which must be cleared."

As the operations tempo for Air Force EOD technicians remains high, maximizing training opportunities such as clearing the ranges remains a critical step for these Airmen.

"When the notification for personnel needing war skills upgrade training went out a few months ago, our ranges were the only ones still operational at the time," said Saterfield.
"Because the ordnance consistently dropped there isn't as complicated as others it's a great way to get the newer techs an opportunity for hands-on training."

Training opportunities like this are rare due to sequestration cuts.

"Our range is still open because we have a land-use agreement with the state of Idaho and clearing these two ranges was already in the contract," said Roberts. "The money had already been allocated, so we were able to go ahead with the operation.

"The annual clearance ensures the bombing range can continue to be used safely by both civilian and military personnel which as EOD is our number one priority," he continued.