SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- A three-man team from Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Detachment Marianas arrived in Rota Sept. 19 to help dispose of World War II-era ordnance.
The explosives were found during construction at the Rota International Airport.
During World War II, Japanese soldiers occupied the island of Rota, the southernmost island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and used the airstrip frequently for air supply to the south from Japan. U.S. forces bombed the island of Rota fighting Japanese forces. Although the airport is not the only place where unexploded ordnance (UXO) has been found on the island, it was a rare incident to see the amount of UXO littered along the construction site.
Currently, Rota has a single 6,000-foot runway, and is in the process of extending it to no less than 8,000 feet, as well as making it wider to accommodate a parallel taxiway. As a precaution, and the nature of the island's history in World War II, metal detectors were used along the construction site by a company that specifically locates UXO. Through a long and tedious search, holes were dug at each beep of the metal detector. Several metal fragments and a railway cart wheel assembly were some of the items found through the field. Once a bomb is found, EOD is notified, and arrangements are made for the disposal team. To date, more than 10 bombs have been found buried within three to four feet of the surface.
EOD Detachment Marianas' Officer-in-Charge Lt. Erich Jurges and his team pulled into a marina in Rota with all the necessary tools and equipment needed for the job; shovels, stakes, a sledgehammer, backpacks, cases and ammo cans filled with tools and instruments of their trade, detonation cord, blasting caps, and last but not least, 40 pounds of plastic composition-4 explosives, also known as C-4.
"We received a report of some UXO at the airport in Rota," said Jurges about the mission. "Once we get there, we'll do some reconnaissance, which is basically trying to identify what kind of bomb it is, what the size is, who the manufacturer was, and ultimately the type of fuse it contains."
The EOD team conducted the reconnaissance on each of the bombs found so that they can take the necessary steps in disposing of the UXO. The team must know what kind of fuse the bomb has, in order to assess the plan for disposal. Some fuses are a point detonating type, where the bomb must fall on its nose from a considerable height for it to detonate. Once it is removed, then it is safe for transport to another location for disposal. If the bombs cannot be made safe to transport then the team detonates the bomb.
In the last eight weeks, the EOD team disposed of 10 UXO from the airstrip. Of those 10, this particular cache of bombs came to a net explosive weight of 1800 pounds from bombs ranging in sizes like 500, 250, 100 and 20 pounds.
"We are Adm. Douglass Biesel's bomb squad. We've responded to suspicious packages, picked up ammunitions, we performed a raise and tow on a 16-inch projectile 20 feet below the surface of the ocean, and we've also been tasked with dissembling a trident missile nose cone on an island in the Federated States of Micronesia," said Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EWS/AW/SW) Brian Fitzgerald, senior enlisted advisor, EOD Detachment Marianas.
Once the team successfully, disarmed all the ordnance, the UXO was loaded up onto a truck and transported to a quarry located at the north end of the island. While the UXO was being unloaded, Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2nd Class (DV) Dan Christenson prepared the blasting caps as well the detonation cord.
EOD then placed all 40 pounds of the C-4 onto the bombs making sure every brick of the plastic explosive was in contact with another. With the area cleared, and the timed fuse set to nearly five minutes, the EOD team cleared the area.
"We did good today," said Jurges. "The mission was a success. We came to de-arm unexploded ordnance, transport them to disposal site, and blow them up."
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