21st TSC EOD techs help Romania Armed Forces destroy excess munitions

Story by Mike Bowers
21st TSC Public Affairs Office

JEGALIA ARMY PROVING GROUND, Romania ─ 21st Theater Sustainment Command Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians provided their Romanian Armed Forces counterparts classroom and hands-on procedures to help expedite the elimination of excess stockpiled munitions here, June 6-17.

Assigned to the 702nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade,  in Grafenwöhr, Germany, the four-man team instructed 26 senior ROAF disposal technicians on the U.S. Army’s method of conducting large-scale and safe munitions demolition operations. The mission was one of seven U.S. European Command Humanitarian Mine Action Program train-the-trainer events conducted in the last year and one of four that directly supported the Department of State’s Conventional Weapons Destruction Strategic Plan.

“It was hard to even consider ourselves instructors when they already knew most of what we were teaching,” said Staff Sgt. Micah Bowman, the 702nd EOD team leader.

“They possess a wealth of knowledge that pretty much humbles us, because some of them have been doing their jobs for more than 30 years,” Bowman said referring to  the Romanian officers, warrant officers and senior noncommissioned officers.
Assisting Bowman were Sgt. Jonathan Reburn, the 702nd EOD team sergeant and team members Spc. Christopher Porth and Spc. Yannick Baptiste.

Prior to the team’s input, the ROAF were using old Soviet doctrine to destroy 130 pounds of munitions per demolition shot in hand-dug blast holes. By comparison, the first shot using the U.S. Army’s method was 441 pounds and culminated with 2,205 pounds.

A demolition shot is a procedure where munitions are stacked in a shallow hole and detonated, which disintegrates or renders the munitions into tiny pieces of scrap metal.

Thirty-thousand pounds of munitions were destroyed during the field portion of the training, which is small considering the ROAF stockpile is an estimated several thousand tons. “At their rate, it would have taken them nearly 20 years to destroy their excess stockpile,” said Bowman. “It should now take less than five years once they finalize their standard operating procedures.”

Romanian stockpiled ordnance includes motors, rocket propelled grenades, hand grenades, mines and artillery shells that have been determined outdated, not fit for use or no longer in compliance with International Mine Action Standards. “We conduct testing to determine if ammunition is safe for service, out of date or if it possesses a threat to our troops if used,” said Romanian Cpt. Lucian Ciobanu, a Jegalia Armament Analyses Laboratory technician who served as the interpreter.

“Once we make that determination, the ammunition must be safely destroyed.”
Destruction took place using newly learned techniques under the watchful eye of the American Soldiers. The ROAF disposal techs split into three teams and took turns meticulously and symmetrically stacking rows of munitions in preparation for each of the 10 training shots.

In addition to hands-on shot-stacking procedures, the ROAF forces were working with newly acquired eye and hearing protection, body armor and helmets, crimpers, blasting machines, radios, global positioning devices and remote wireless blast initiation systems. The equipment and training aids were part of the team’s mission to significantly enhance the ROAF’s demolition efficiency and safety measures. Bowman’s team introduced measures using existing blast holes, munitions stacking procedures and introducing TNT blocks as an ignition source as opposed to using primarily land mines.

“This is a model of how defense cooperation should be,” said Air Force Col. Timothy Manning, thechief of the Office of Defense Cooperation, deputy for Security Cooperation, U.S. Embassy, Bucharest, Romania.

“This wasn’t a team of U.S. people telling the Romanians how to do things, but cooperation with the Romanians and a sharing of ideas,” explained Manning. “This experience will definitely help our guys deal with Warsaw Pact munitions they may encounter on deployments.” Manning noted there is no price tag for the lasting friendships and relationships that were forged over the two weeks.

“The Romanians are on the right track to get rid of all their excess munitions sooner than later,” added Bowman who presented certificates to each student at the graduation ceremony. “They will adopt, if not everything, a lot of what we’ve shown them.”