SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- When asked what comes to mind when you think of the explosive ordnance disposal units of the U.S. military, most people might describe a scene from the "The Hurt Locker" movie, the heavy blast suit donned by its members or the state-of-the-art robots they use to disarm improvised explosive devices.
What is not typically thought of or known is the important role EOD members play in the disposal of unserviceable munitions.
A group of EOD technicians, ammunition personnel and firefighters from the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing worked together to dispose of the truckload of unserviceable ordnance in a safe manner in Southwest Asia May 11, 2017. The disposal included close to 8,000 ordnance items and 1,000 pharmaceutical waste items with a controlled burn.
"Just like food, every munition has an expiration date," said Master Sgt. Steven Max, the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight chief. "The percentage of functionality deteriorates over the munitions' service life. Once munitions inspectors identify defects or determine that munitions are no longer useable in accordance with technical orders, they must be destroyed."
Because the munitions are no longer safe to use, they also create a hazard to ship back to the United States for disposal. Munitions are disposed of in theater through an ammunition disposition request through EOD.
"We are in charge of the destruction and disposal of ordnances that are no longer needed in country," said Tech. Sgt. Scot Lawson, a master EOD technician. "In this case it was cheaper for us to destroy the munitions here rather than to ship them back to the United States."
The stockpile of expired munitions, consisting primarily of flares, was transported to an isolated location where the items were stacked in a man-made hole in preparation for destruction. Once at a safe distance, EOD technicians used a thermite grenade to initiate a fire, which consumed the flares and about 5,000 rounds of small arms ammunition and explosive cartridges used to eject munitions from aircraft.
"It's all stuff that needs to be disposed of," said Senior Airman Merit Davey, an EOD journeyman with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. "Here we do a lot of ADRs like this, whether by demolition or burns, but our primary mission in theater is to keep the flightline open and provide support up north."