UDARI RANGE, Kuwait - It was the morning of Dec. 28, 2011, when the 788th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, stationed out of Fort Campbell, Ky., started their operation at Udari Range in northwest Kuwait. The 788th EOD Company’s mission was to help the Kuwait military destroy ordnance that has been in inventory for over thirty years, according to 788th EOD Commander Capt. Amir Abu-Akeel.
The 788th EOD Company worked with the Kuwait Ground Forces EOD unit, commanded by Capt. Michal, as well as a civilian who works for the Kuwaiti government named Claude Doppagne, to arrange the Kuwaiti facilities needed to dispose of the code H ordnance. Code H means that the ordnance is no longer serviceable and needs to be demilitarized.
On Dec. 28, there were five holes in the desert that would be filled with 500 pounds of code H ordnance to be detonated in each hole.
While destroying a large amount of explosives may seem like an easy task, it takes a lot of training, practice and experience to detonate it safely and effectively. The 788th EOD Company has been in Kuwait for three months, and they have been gaining extraordinary experience in their EOD teams.
Spc. Matthew Geier was in charge of constructing one of the five stacks of ordnance to be disposed of. The ordnance to be destroyed included high explosive rounds, white phosphorous rounds and British bar mines. Geier had to ensure that all of the ordnance was stacked neatly and in the correct position in order for it all to be destroyed once the stack was detonated.
Once all five of the holes were filled, the EOD technicians placed one block of Composition 4 (C4) to initiate the detonation of the old weaponry. The C4 was detonated through a remote control device. Once the range non-commissioned officer in charge, Staff Sgt. Jonathon Guisto, made sure that all five detonation locations were properly stacked, connected to the detonator and all personnel were out of the area, he moved to a predetermined location where the 788th EOD Company used a radio controlled detonator to initiate the five detonations in sequence.
Staff Sgt. James Van Elsacker was the range safety officer that day. Once Guisto gave Van Elsacker the green light, Van Elsacker took accountability to make sure all personnel were present and at a safe distance from the detonation site. The remote detonators were armed and after calling, “FIRE IN THE HOLE, FIRE IN THE HOLE, FIRE IN THE HOLE,” the first site exploded in large cloud of fire, dust and smoke.
After the fifth and final detonation, Guisto and Van Elsacker went to the detonation sites to ensure that all ordnance was disposed of and there was no longer any dangerous materials left in the area.
The 788th EOD Company is stationed out of Fort Campbell, Ky., and is attached to the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team for their mobilization.