National Guard November 2012 : Page 36
STATE ROUNDUP California Guard EOD company has no problem staying busy on peacekeeping duty A Blast In Kosovo RIVING ACROSS THE moun-tainous terrain of Kosovo with a trailer full of unexploded munitions would make most people a little nervous. For the driver, it is just another day. “It is very important because these hazards affect not only our military, but also the civilian population,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert W. Lee. “It is very important that we keep this area safe for the civilians, as well as the military operating in the area.” Of all the dangers soldiers face in Kosovo, unexploded ordnance (UXOs) may be the most hazardous. Identify-ing UXOs and properly disposing of them is crucial to the safety and secu-rity of everyone living in Kosovo. “With a UXO, the most dangerous aspect is always the unknown,” Lee said. Lee is a team leader for the 217th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Company. The California Army Na-tional Guard unit is in the newly inde-pendent Balkan nation as part of Mul-tinational Battle Group East, which is under the command of the South Car-olina Army Guard’s 218th Maneuver D 36 | Na tional Guard
California Guard EOD company has no problem staying busy on peacekeeping duty
A Blast In Kosovo
DRIVING ACROSS THE mountainous terrain of Kosovo with a trailer full of unexploded munitions would make most people a little nervous. For the driver, it is just another day.
“It is very important because these hazards affect not only our military, but also the civilian population,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert W. Lee. “It is very important that we keep this area safe for the civilians, as well as the military operating in the area.”
Of all the dangers soldiers face in Kosovo, unexploded ordnance (UXOs) may be the most hazardous. Identifying UXOs and properly disposing of them is crucial to the safety and security of everyone living in Kosovo.
“With a UXO, the most dangerous aspect is always the unknown,” Lee said.
Lee is a team leader for the 217th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Company. The California Army National Guard unit is in the newly independent Balkan nation as part of Multinational Battle Group East, which is under the command of the South Carolina Army Guard’s 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
The 217th arrived for the 16th rotation of the Kosovo peacekeeping mission in September. By mid-October, the unit had already responded to more than 40 calls for suspected UXOs.
Team members say they take every call seriously.
“We must always prepare for worstcase scenario,” said Sgt. Valeriy P. Didychenko, an EOD technician with the 217th. “Always be ready. We never get perfect information because people never know what they are looking at. So, we have to be prepared for anything.”
Dealing with false alarms on a daily basis can make it easy to want to start letting safety precautions slide. But an EOD tech never knows what will be found at a call, so each mission is handled with the same concern and attention to detail.
“It is an exciting job,” Didychenko said. “It is never the same. There is always something unique. The danger is always out there, the adrenaline is always pumping. You know you have a pulse.”
In Kosovo, a large issue is outdated munitions.
“Munitions are sort of like MREs,” said Lee, referring to the ready-made meals given to soldiers in the field. “Everything has a shelf life, and over time need to be inspected. They have moving parts. There are lubricants for fuses and over time the chemical composition will break down.”
It’s often more cost effective in Kosovo to destroy munitions in a safe manner rather than ship them back to the United States for the demilitarization process.
Any time an EOD team is working around explosives, whether it is in a controlled training environment or during a call to the field, all steps are taken to make sure that safety is the first and primary concern.
Didychenko said safety is always the first priority because you are putting people’s lives on the line.
“There are a lot of danger precautions,” he said. “You are talking above and beyond the normal soldier safety precautions. You need to make sure there is no one else out on the range. You want to make sure you know how big the blast will be, what the radius is for shot fragmentation, the blast radius.
“You need to set up security for the area, the damage the blast can cause. All those things need to be taken into consideration.”
Lee agreed. All steps must be taken to ensure safety, he said.
“It is just not safe to handle munitions unless you have been properly trained,” he said. “You don’t know what state it is in, whether it was fired, but then misfired, or if someone was trying to get rid of it, and just placed it there. Leave it to us.” —By Sgt. Angela Parady
District of Columbia, Massachusetts
Capital Shield Exercise Preps Guard for Inauguration Duty
Two units that specialize in responding to weapons of mass destruction participated in a training event in the District of Columbia last month that emphasized unity of effort for local and federal agencies in preparation for events such as the upcoming presidential inauguration.
The D.C. National Guard’s 33rd Civil Support Team and the Massachusetts Guard’s 1st CST set up their equipment for a section of the training on the western campus of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in the nation’s capital.
St. Elizabeth’s, which opened in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane, is across the Anacostia River from the D.C. National Guard Armory.
The training area includes a vast array of shuttered, three-story brick buildings. With fencing and gate guards, its tight, twisting roads are confusing to navigate, making it an excellent environment for challenging training.
During the Capital Shield Exercise, Sgt. Tanisha Mercado and Staff Sgt. Jason McGuire had to survey a suspicious trailer container sitting conspicuously among historic buildings at St. Elizabeth’s. They donned heavy, airtight chemical suits for the job.
“[We] were tasked with performing surveying and recon around a trailer,” said Mercado. “We took a grab sample, which is when the entire package, Container, envelope or, in this case, a propane tank is taken into the lab. Our grab sample turned out to be an improvised dispersal device.”
The 33rd has completed two largescale exercises this year in anticipation of the 2013 Presidential Inauguration on Jan 21. —By Sgt. Jesse Searls
Guard, Tribes Partnership Talk Designed to Help Both Parties
South Dakota National Guard leaders met with representative from several Native American tribes in Oacoma, S. D., last month to discuss partnership opportunities for community service projects on their reservations.
Envoys from the Cheyenne River, Oglala, Rosebud and Yankton Sioux tribes received an update on what the Guard can support communities with for engineer construction, material transportation and medical support services.
Guard leaders, including Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch, the adjutant general, and tribal members saw the meeting as an opportunity to generate awareness of Guard services, the needs on the reservations and how the two groups can work together.
“I appreciate General Reisch setting up this meeting with the different tribes to discuss some of the common goals we can achieve together,” said Richard Leasure, the environmental director and emergency manager for the Yankton Sioux Tribe.
The proposed partnerships would be coordinated through the Guard’s Innovative Readiness Training program, which creates projects to benefit both Guard readiness and the local community.
“The partnership,” Reisch said, “would involve the National Guard conducting training on the reservations that would result in improvements to the infrastructure, such as road development, construction services, providing medical care and other types of support that are consistent with the missions of the Guard.”
Some of the potential projects include medical screenings and examinations, Veterinarian services, firewood transportation and road construction and maintenance. —South Dakota National Guard release
Water Proof: Exercise Provides Realistic Training for Troops
Several Florida Army National Guard units recently collaborated for maritime operations training in Florida’s southern-most islands.
Soldiers from the state’s Special Forces and aviation elements along with members of its CBRNE enhanced response force package (CERF-P) met in Key West in late September to train in the warm Caribbean waters.
As pleasure boats and cruise ships drifted by, Guardsmen practiced techniques associated with maritime operations: parachuting into water, operating inflatable rafts, long-distance swimming and navigating on the open water.
“As a maritime-capable unit within the Special Forces, part of our job with the civilian authorities is to provide [search-and-rescue support during] state emergencies such as hurricanes,” said Maj. Michael Roth, the commander of C Company 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
The highlight of the training was a day-long airborne exercise over the waters directly north of downtown Key West.
A UH-60 Black Hawk flown by aviators from 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation, picked up the Special Forces teams at Trumbo Point, circled the area at 1,500 feet and dropped the soldiers by parachute into the azure bay.
Special Forces crews in inflatable boats circled the drop zone and recovered the jumpers within minutes after they hit the water. Because waterlogged parachutes and equipment can make recovery difficult, certified combat divers were present in case of an emergency or accident.
In addition, specialized aluminum boats provided by the CERF-P supported the intense training. —By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/State+Roundup/1227059/133118/article.html.