Leave Duds and War Trophies Alone!
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 1996 Leave unexploded ammunition alone, said ordnance disposal specialists to service members in Bosnia. The warning comes as DoD's investigation continues into the death of an Army sergeant in Bosnia.
"There is one simple, easy lesson when it comes to unexploded ordnance don't touch it," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Steve Downs. He is an ordnance disposal specialist with 67th Explosive Ordnance Detachment, here at Fort McNair.
"In Bosnia, there are many different factors involved because the ammunition and weapons are from so many countries. When you first recognize it whether it be a bomb or mine stop, back out and report what you've found immediately. Most importantly, leave it alone," Downs warned.
Since Operation Joint Endeavor began, military officials have emphasized caution in dealing with munitions. To help educate service members, Downs said, explosive ordnance disposal personnel give classes to units before they leave for Bosnia. Still, he said, they can't teach everybody about every piece of ordnance they may find.
"That's why it's important to go back to the basics and the basics say leave it alone," he remarked. "Commanders will normally have people trained to identify types of munitions, but not trained to disarm it. The best thing they can do is mark the danger area, then stay out until we can come in and remove it.
"Once we know about it and we have to be told it's there we can prioritize our missions to get to the most hazardous situations first and eventually get it out." Downs said highestpriority missions include ordnance found in densely populated areas and near sensitive property and equipment.
Although ordnance disposal people deal mostly with stray and unexploded munitions, land mines are also a danger. Because of this, Downs urged service members to patrol in cleared areas.
"You're going to find mines and minefields in areas off cleared paths and roadways," said Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Bondurant, also of the 67th. "People on patrol must stay in those cleared areas. You can't just wander into an area because you see something strange going on in it. If the area hasn't been cleared, you have to stay out of it."
Mapping and clearing minefields is an engineer mission, and both Downs and Bondurant said many military engineer units have the equipment for that job. The engineers have the knowledge and expertise to gauge where mines might be and to remove them, Downs added.
Downs said ordnance disposal personnel and the engineer units can handle most problems in Bosnia. Still, he urged caution. "We can sweep and clear most areas, but you will still have someone finding a bomb or mine while digging a trench or foxhole," he said. "Those finds will happen and cant be prevented. In those cases, service members again must remember the basics don't touch the munitions."
The same goes for abandoned weapons the socalled war trophies some service members want for their mantels. Bondurant said during the Persian Gulf War, he saw AK47s, bayonets and other weapons left behind by the Iraqis some rigged for explosion.
"In recent years, commanders weren't allowing folks to take war trophies. Units were confiscating foreign weapons during spot inspections," said Downs. "This is one of the reasons. You need to leave those trophies where they lie because they could be boobytrapped. It may look innocent, but there are numerous ways a service member can trigger the trap."
These traps include heat sensors, trip wires, light meters and explosives within the trophy itself. "One of the AK47s we found had a device designed to explode when you pulled the trigger," said Bondurant. "There may be factions in Bosnia that don't want us there, and these war trophies can be a perfect weapon. You have to leave them alone."
Bondurant concluded with a slogan used in the Persian Gulf War a safety campaign something both he and Downs said applies to all service members in Bosnia: "If you didn't drop it, don't pick it up!"