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    Exploding History to Build Readiness



    Story by Sgt. SHARIFA NEWTON 

    52nd Ordnance Group (EOD)

    Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians from across the U.S. military, hone their interoperability skills by working together to render safe and dispose of (Civil War-era) cannonballs during Operation Blue Steel Nov. 30 - Dec. 4 at Letterkenny Army Depot located in Chambersburg, P.A.

    EOD exists to provide support, by detecting, locating, identifying, diagnosing, rendering safe, exploiting, and disposing of all explosive ordnance, improvised explosive devices, improvised/homemade explosives, and weapons of mass destruction.

    Depending on the EOD unit, the types of support can vary. For example, the 55th Ordnance Company EOD provides homeland response to the National Capital Region, the surrounding areas of Delaware and Pennsylvania as well as providing VIP support to the U.S. Secret Service around the NCR at a moment’s notice. They also provide Defense Support of Civil Authorities to Washington, D.C.'s Metro area, surrounding states, and emergency response to Spring Valley’s formerly used defense site.

    Spearheaded by the 55th OD CO, Operation Blue Steel was a joint operation that brought EOD technicians from roughly every branch together to keep the community safe and increase joint skill proficiency by disposing of 1,200 Civil War-era cannonballs found in the Pittsburgh area.

    “This mission is so important because it pertains to the safety of the local communities,” said Sergeant 1st class Steven Sadler, Non-Commissioned Officer In charge of this operation, 55th OD CO EOD, 192nd Ordnance Battalion EOD, 52nd Ordnance Group EOD. “The cannonballs were originally unearthed next to civilization. In the event a natural catastrophe occurs, they can harm the local populace and destroy infrastructure. Being able to remove and safely dispose of them, will prevent all those things from happening.”

    In addition to this mission being important, it also carries a unique and historical connotation.

    Established in 1814, Allegheny Arsenal was known as one of America's principal ordnance innovators and manufacturers of ammunition for small arms and artillery in the years before the Civil War.

    “While disposal techniques have evolved with time, back then, one of the methods of disposing of mass amounts of ordnance was to bury it and we're working with that very same ordnance today,” said Sadler.

    In 2017, 55th OD EOD conducted a similar operation when they received a call from the Pittsburgh Police Department Bomb Squad about a large number of cannonballs found. Ordnance operations such as these require additional assistance, due to the amount of equipment and Manpower needed.

    This joint force operation consisted of approximately 20 EOD technicians from the Army, Marines, and Air Force. Working side by side, they rendered each cannonball safe in a process called “demilitarization”.

    Technical Sgt. James Alan Bennett from the 87th Civil Engineer Squadron stationed at McGuire Air Force Base said when working with the Army and with the other EOD technicians he has had only good experiences.

    "For this event, everything went smoothly, everybody knew what they were going to do to get from point A to point B to get the mission done and it is always fun to see and learn how different people do different things," said Bennett.

    Overall this mission not only protected the surrounding Pittsburgh communities, but enabled the technicians to use techniques that are rarely used operationally in EOD and gave them a sense of value.

    “This mission gives historical value to me and my team members,” said Sadler. It's rare to be able to see and touch ordnance this old,” said Sadler. “Usually, it's one of those things that you see in museums and thrift shops, but rarely do you get to see 1,200 of them (cannonballs) in one day and put your hands on them. It's just not the normal stuff, it's history.”



    Date Taken: 12.04.2020
    Date Posted: 01.07.2021 16:11
    Story ID: 386557
    Location: CHAMBERSBURG , PA, US 

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