Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. -- MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – From horizon to horizon, the early morning sun expanded across the rough, rocky terrain that is the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in Imperial County, California. While clouds drifted across the mountain peaks, far below a flurry of activity took place as Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines planned the clearing of ordnance, targets and impact craters from aerial combat training, Monday.
The EOD Marines, from Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron on MCAS Yuma and Marine Wing Support Squadron 372 from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, began range clearance on Aug. 22 in preparation for the upcoming Weapons and Tactics Instructor course. During the clearance operations, EOD conducted surface sweeps for unexploded ordnance (UXO) and supported nearby range maintenance personnel. The Marines ensure the range maintenance personnel have a safe environment to work in, sweeping each target area within the range.
“Our mission is to safely and effectively clear the target areas of unexploded ordnance in order to facilitate the safe insertion of targets for aerial missions,” said Staff Sgt. Robbie Grieder, an EOD technician team leader with Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron at MCAS Yuma, and a native of Belleplaine, Iowa.
“Our purpose is to reduce the hazards on the range…While doing that, we are escorting range maintenance personnel, who insert targets in support of WTI missions, so pilots can train and be mission ready,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Witte, an EOD technician with H&HS.
If unexploded ordnance is found by the EOD Marines, they flag the item and GPS mark it. Next, they create a shot plan, which is a plan of where and how to safely destroy the unexploded ordnance.
“Some days we will have what we consider great luck, where we will walk into an area and every 20 feet find something. Some days its bone dry and we don’t find anything,” said Grieder.
“Our shot sequence went off without a hitch, and we got to see some pretty cool explosions,” added Witte. “Today was pretty standard.”