MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The Combat Center's explosive ordnance disposal team received a call from the Provost Marshal's Office here July 18 regarding a suspicious device planted at Condor Gate here.
The call was part of an operation to exercise the team's response time, assessment and disposal effort.
The team responded immediately to the threat, remaining a safe distance away with a trailer of tools and equipment, from what was described as an improvised explosive device.
EOD technicians responding to the threat were Sgt. Edward J. Weis, team leader for the exercise, Sgt. Christopher Cardenas, assistant team leader, Gunnery Sgt. Steven Williams and Staff Sgt. Kelly Crawford.
By description, the IED was a small rectangular pink box covered with cartoon characters. The threat of the IED resulted in EOD technicians bringing out the team's remote ordnance neutralization system or RONS.
The versatile, remote controlled, mobile robot operates over rough terrain, crosses obstacles and ditches, climbs stairs, and operates in sand, gravel, mud or grass.
Because of its narrow width, it can also operate in very constrained areas without sacrificing its all-terrain capabilities, said Gunnery Sgt. David Sutton, EOD technician.
RONS is equipped with four television cameras for remote viewing, lights, two-way audio, and a manipulating arm and gripper for handling hazardous materials.
"[RONS] is capable of replacing human workers or military personnel in all types of hazardous environments," said Sutton.
The IED was placed next to a fence that enclosed three large propane gas tanks.
"In a situation like this, we assessed that it is best that we not remove the device from its place because of its hazardous location," said Weis.
EOD technicians observed the device via camera from RONS to the monitors in the safe area with the team.
"After RONS reached the device and we had a good positioning on it, we neutralized the device's threat [by disrupting the firing mechanism]," said Weis.
After RONS disrupted the system, an EOD technician approached to observe the device.
"[RONS'] job is to neutralize the device," said Williams. "My job is to walk up to it an [EOD8 bomb suit] and verify if it actually is disrupted."
"If this were an actual threat, the team wants to make sure that the device would not go off on base," said Sutton. "Collateral damage is an issue here. Whereas in Iraq there are many lives at stake but it would mostly be on battlegrounds. It is important that we practice these situations and utilize [RONS] in our exercises. The more you work together the more comfortable you are with each other. Comfort is very important in a job like this."
After the device is neutralized and personally evaluated, any remaining hazards are removed; the evidence is collected and turned in to local law enforcement agencies.
The team practices similar situations four times a month, which are tailored for IED training.
"The biggest threat to us is acts of terrorism," said Weis. "This is what we keep in mind during every exercise. RONS is used for force protection, and the EOD team travels wherever protection is needed."
The EOD team responds to calls in the San Bernardino County and Riverside County areas and up to the eastern boarders of Arizona and Nevada, 24 hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. EOD receives two to three calls a month outside of the Combat Center, said Weis.