Explosive Safety Office reminds service members of A&E danger

13 Oct 2011 | Cpl. Miranda Blackburn

Marines are known to have an affinity for destruction. Whether it is in training or in a combat zone, Marines constantly come in contact with ammunition and explosives. Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of mishandled munitions resulting in injury or death.

Department of Defense ammunition and explosives are designed to neutralize the enemy, but when not properly utilized and cared for, they can and will maim or kill service members.

“During a return trip from (Operation Iraqi Freedom) a Marine assigned to Task Force Tarawa tried to bring back a sub-munition as a souvenir,” said Ralph Harris, an explosive safety specialist. “When he heard that a health and comfort inspection was going to be held, he tossed the sub-munition in a trash can. An unfortunate Marine that put a box in the trash can detonated the sub-munition, resulting in serious injury to that Marine.”

Over the past year, Marines and sailors aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune have had a number of ammunition and explosive mishaps that is far too high. Following proper procedures could have prevented every single one of them.

“The main problem we’re having is that Marines are becoming complacent,” said Harris. “They are so used to being in combat environments and being around (ammunition and explosives) that they forget how dangerous it is.”

Department of Defense munitions have multiple features designed into them to ensure the safety of operators and bystanders, but failure to treat them safely and follow established procedures overrides these safety features and frequently results in injuries, and occasionally death to Marines and sailors.

Munitions accountability is paramount to ensure safety. Every Marine or sailor should ensure that all accounting procedures are followed whenever ammunition and explosives are used during training.

Training accidents can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines:

• When preparing the ammunition and explosives for use, don’t use unauthorized tools to open the boxes and containers.
• Do not smoke within 50 feet of the ammunition and explosives.
• Do not throw, toss or drag the ammunition and explosives.
• Do not use radios, cell phones or other electronic emitters near ammunition and explosives that are electronically initiated.
• Never go down range into any impact areas.
• Call “cease fire” when required.
• Stop any unsafe training evolution or event.

At the end of every training event, the range officer in charge should conduct a shakedown of personnel and equipment and perform a final inventory to returning munitions to the ammunition supply point and completing expenditure reports.

Strict adherence to range regulations is also required to ensure safe training.

Unexploded ordnance is also a very dangerous threat to Marines, sailors and civilians aboard any military installation. Unexploded ordnance are explosive munitions that did not explode when they were employed and still pose a risk of detonating.

“You can never be too safe when handling (ammunition and explosives),” said Harris. “The cardinal rule is ‘expose the fewest number of people to the least amount of explosives for the shortest period of time.’ Although training is supposed to be realistic, it is incumbent upon every Marine and sailor to ensure that safety is an important consideration in all training events.”

When unexploded ordnance is encountered, the location should be immediately reported to the Provost Marshal’s Office or Range Control.