MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Through the hills and rocky terrain of Range 400, the Marines of Explosive Ordnance Disposal walked and scanned the area, clearing it of all ordnance that could pose a threat to units currently training.
“The purposes of the sweeps are to keep ordnance and explosive residue to a minimum, and to allow the newer, better targets to be put in for the Marines to train,” said Master Sgt. Michael Burghardt, EOD liaison for Tactical Training and Exercise Control Group. “It also provides training for EOD technicians on ordnance identification and fragmentation identification, which helps them when deploying to foreign countries.”
When conducting a range sweep a range safety officer, officer-in-charge, Navy corpsman and EOD technicians are present. The current sweep includes 14 Marines, some of which are with east coast units, but are currently training at Mojave Viper.
“A range sweep consists of going out and searching for unexploded ordnance or dud ordnance that has been fired by the mortars or assault men,” said Sgt. Bryce Cannon, EOD technician and Range Safety Officer for the Range 400 sweep. “Basically, we go out and clear the ranges of hazards that are just lying out there.”
EOD technicians perform range sweeps depending on the training that is being conducted and how often units are being pushed through the different ranges.
“We end up doing range sweeps every other week, with some ranges more than others,” said Cannon. “We clear Range 400 after Mojave Viper usually, because every unit goes to that range during training.”
The EOD technicians went out to recover the different ordnance used by infantry units. They were sweeping the range for 81 millimeter and 60 millimeter high explosive mortars, 60 millimeter white phosphorus or red phosphorus, illumination rounds that didn’t go off, smoke grenades, artillery simulators, anti-personnel obstacle breaching systems, shoulder-launched multi-purpose assault weapons and AT-4 anti-armor weapons
“We recovered 15, 60mm mortars; four SMAW; five AT-4; 49, 81mm; 15, 40mm practice grenades; 5 APOBS; 150, 5.56 rounds; and one artillery simulator,” said Cannon.
The range sweeps, which take a majority of the day, pay off in the end in various ways to the different Marines involved.
“My favorite part of the range sweep is you get a chance to know your Marines,” said Burghardt. “With such a busy schedule, especially here at Twentynine Palms between Mojave Viper, VIP visits, deploying Marines to augment other forces going to Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes you don’t get a chance to get a one-on-one with your Marines to understand what kind of level of experience they have. Are they gaining experience or are they just at idle? It’s a chance to chat with them about just life in general, and you don’t get that chance here in the shop.”
For Cannon, the best part of the sweep is the final result.
“We stack all the ordnance, place C4 on top of it, and blow it up,” said Cannon. “That’s the best part of the range sweep, blowing it up.”
While the EOD technicians conduct operations here on base, they continuously gain more knowledge and experience in their job field that can help them while overseas. Their job field deals with an immense amount of ordnance that they must know how to identify, handle and dispose of. Range sweeps also give EOD technicians a chance to further their knowledge.