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Thursday, June 25, 2009

AFP, JSOTF-P EOD teams destroy 2,500 kilograms of old, unusable explosives

By Petty Officer 1st Class Fletcher Gibson
Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines Public Affairs

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Republic of the Philippines -- An earth-shaking explosion rocked the farming region outside General Santos City June 24 as explosive ordnance disposal technicians from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines safely detonated nearly 2,500 kilograms of confiscated explosives and unearthed relics of war.

The detonation was one of several held recently at the request of the AFP to help dispose of unexploded ordnance from past conflicts.

“We’re still discovering ammunition from World War II,” said 1st Lt. Joanne Villareiz, the team leader of the AFP’s 72nd EOD team. “They’re corroded but still dangerous.”

The 60-year-old relics in this case were two 100-kilogram bombs found by the Philippine National Police. The munitions had become so corroded that they could only be identified by looking up their measurements in the EOD team’s reference guides. This identification was an important first step in planning the operation because knowing the specifications of a piece of ordnance tells the team how much force is required to destroy it.

In addition to the two bombs, nearly 2,000 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, a common chemical which forms the basis for homemade explosives, was confiscated from Jolo. Although not as dangerous when unmixed, concern for the environment prompted its destruction in the ordnance detonation.

“Ammonium nitrate is a marine pollutant,” said U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Bates, the EOD team leader for JSOTF-P’s Task Force Archipelago, “that’s why it just can’t be dumped it into the sea or let it soak into the ground.”

The operation also gave the EOD teams from both militaries, as well as their bomb squad counterparts from the Philippine National Police, a chance to train together on bomb handling and disposal. Representatives from each group got hands-on practice with identifying different types of explosives as well as working with actual detonation equipment.

“We were able to share with them our experiences with the IEDs we’ve encountered here and they’ve taught us about possible IEDs we have not encountered, but that the U.S. has seen in other countries,” said Villareiz.

“We really focused on tactics training, teaching them the fundamentals of safety,” added U.S. Navy Ens. Deward Cummings III, the assistant EOD task unit commander for JSOTF-P.

The detonation of unsafe ordnance is a growing mission for the AFP EOD teams. Previous detonations have disposed of smaller amounts of ordnance, but July will see a larger operation as the teams coordinate again to detonate more than 13,000 kilograms of confiscated and unsafe explosives.

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