News: Ammunition Marines clean house during demolition training
Story by Cpl. Paul Peterson
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - A quiet fell over the line of Marines as they stood on a raised berm and waited to see the results of their day’s endeavor.
Thirty-one Marines with Ammunition Company, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group silently watched explosion after explosion erupt across the demolition range here and send tendrils of fire and debris streaking through the sky, Dec. 4.
“If you were standing down there, it would be pretty bad,” said Gunnery Sgt. Dustin L. Kershaw, the storage chief for the company’s ammunition supply point, or ASP, who helped organize the training. “There is going to be shrapnel flying and some big fires … If you are in the mix of that, it is going to be a bad day.”
The Marines seeded the area with a deep pit of small-arms ammunition and 17 separate stashes, or shots, of munitions that contained as much as 50 pounds of net explosive weight.
The emergency demolition training was designed to prepare the Marines to destroy supplies in the field if they ever had to abandon a position.
“We took all of our old ammo that was no longer serviceable, and instead of spending the money to send it back to the depots and have it processed, we used it for training,” said Staff Sgt. Andy G. Fidler, a native of Mineral Wells, Texas, and area supervisor for ASP. “We used each shot as a training tool to teach the Marines how to set up with different types of materials.”
The training is an important but rare experience for the company’s ammunition technicians, many of whom had never conducted an extensive demolition on such a large scale.
Teams of Marines dug shallow trenches at staggered intervals across the field. They arranged stacks of explosives inside their holes and planted demolition charges to ensure the munitions would be destroyed in the initial blast.
Any misplaced ordnance could be sent flying into the sky or scattered across the range.
“We always make sure everything is safe,” noted Fidler. “We handle a lot of explosives and a lot of demolition. Along with that, we were handling bad ammunition. Even though we determined it to be safe for transport and handling, it is not in the condition it was originally.”
Small orange flags rose above the field of grass to mark the position of each cache as the Marines set the fuses and headed for safety.
“It is exciting for the Marines,” said Kershaw, a native of Galveston, Texas. “Most of the time they are handing the ammunition out to other people to use on the ranges and shoot. They’re actually getting a chance to blow some of it up now.”
Thirty-five gallons of diesel fuel signaled the start of the detonations as it consumed the stockpile of small-arms ammunition.
Moments later, a silent mushroom cloud lurched from the ground and rose into the air. The sound from the blast reached the Marines seven seconds later, just as another eruption of fire and debris broke away from the surface of the range.
“Everything was planned,” said Fidler. “They are experts when it comes to demolitions, but they rarely get to physically use them.”