An Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., recently provided support to nearby March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, following an F-16 crash incident.
The three-man team from the 412th Test Wing’s 812th Civil Engineer Squadron were onsite within hours of the call for support and promptly rendered the site safe from unexploded ordnance dangers.
“When the flag goes up asking for EOD assistance, the team never knows what to expect,” said Maj. Brian Anderson, 812th CES Commander. “All they know is that their unique skillset is needed – there’s no one else that can cover down to fill this mission if they’re unable or unavailable.”
The three-man, EOD stand-by team was led Tech Sgt. James Bennett, operations section chief. He said that despite his years of experience, this particular situation was new and unique.
“Having an aircraft crash just off-base and inside a civilian building, I’ve never seen that before,” Bennett said. “It was completely different for all the guys, for one of my guys, it was actually it was his first stand-by call.”
Bennett said that EOD responds to calls on Edwards during flights with hung ordnance. They also respond to local areas when old munitions are discovered and provide support to local authorities all over the Southern California region.
“We don’t normally get calls at three in the morning,” he said.
The F-16 crash outside of March caused impact to the surrounding communities due to the closure of a nearby freeway; after clearing the building of hazards, the freeway was reopened.
“Explosives often trump other hazards, and everything is basically shut down within the associated cordon,” Anderson said. “It is imperative to arrive on scene as quickly as possible. When responding on-base, this will help the Wing to get back on mission. When off-base, this will help businesses and roads to reopen, and for people to go back to their homes.”
Bennett and his team used the almost two-hour long drive from Edwards to March to review procedures and tasks to ensure the ordnance was disposed of properly.
“There’s a lot of training that goes into it before, we were talking about on the drive down,” Bennett said. “You have to know what to look for, we talked about hazards, what local agencies are going to be concerned about. All the training we’ve done before helps.”
Bennett also took the opportunity to train and mentor his team. He reminded his team to watch out for everybody and to be careful in an unknown environment with uncertain conditions of the munitions.
“Most definitely used as a real-world training opportunity,” Bennett said. “It was good for them to see how everybody works together, the different ways of communication, the different verbiage that they use. It is really rare for us to get to do a disposal like that off-base.”
Bennett said that the importance of training with other agencies showed its value during their mission to March.
“We had a really good pass off from the (EOD team) down there, there was really good communication,” Bennett said. “We’ve done some training operations with some of the March guys up here, we like to go in very prepared.”
Anderson attributed to the team’s safety and success to training and a whole team effort.
“I am extremely proud of my entire team, not just those few who directly participated in this response and their performance this one time,” Anderson said. “This was truly a team effort stemming back to countless hours in the shop, training and working to ensure the equipment is ready to go. The whole Flight has to pull their weight to ensure mission success. This was a team win.”