News: Burning explosives for the safety of Soldiers
Story by Sgt. Ruth Pagan
HERAT, Afghanistan – Through three sweltering Afghan summers and three freezing cold winters, tons of explosives - ammonium nitrate fuel oil and ammonite, have sat in metal containers on Camp Stone.
“They are no longer safe or usable for their intended purpose, which is mining and quarrying,” said Jim McGuire, an Explosive Ordinance Disposal technical adviser for Dyncorp. “Looking out for the welfare of our troops and the Afghan troops, it was decided to get rid of it. So we are taking the [fuel oil] and ammonite out and disposing of them, which is to burn them.”
Each day soldiers with Battery A, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, EOD contractors and Afghan workers load about two tons of explosives into trucks, transport the materials to a safe location in the desert, unload the material and burn it.
The soldiers take their duties very seriously.
“We as soldiers are providing the overwatch and security for the personnel who are taking care of the burn itself, and we make sure everyone arrives safely and returns safely,” said Sgt. Luis Reynold Gonzalez, a fire direction controller with Battery A.
“Our mission is an absolute necessity,” said Sgt. Chris Hall, an artilleryman with Battery A. “There are a lot of [improvised explosive device] components that we are getting rid of.”
“We are getting an opportunity to prevent hijackers from getting these explosives,” said Spc. Christopher Miller, an artilleryman with Battery A. “We get to go out and provide security, and it really makes me feel useful, like I’m doing something worthwhile.”
“It’s an experience,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve never done anything like this before. Providing overwatch for a burn of this caliber is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.”