Fire in the Hole

27 Apr 2018 | Sgt. Tiffany Edwards Okinawa Marines

"Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!”

The call rings out through the dense, green Okinawan jungle, followed by a tense silence. Suddenly, an explosion cracks the quiet, sending a shockwave across the mountain. After the shudder from the shockwave fades, the Marine and Air Force explosive ordinance technicians wait silently for a few moments. The 30 seconds after detonating ordnance are crucial, spent listening closely for any lethal shrapnel flying through the air that could cut too close to life and limb. 

EOD technicians with Marine EOD Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35 and Air Force EOD Flight, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron, 18th Wing conducted post-blast analysis and render-safe procedure training April 25, 2018 at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. 

“Today we focused on PBA and RSP training for U.S. and foreign conventional ordnance that we would find on the battlefield,” said Master Sgt. Kaliff Eyrick, the platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, EOD Co., 9th ESB. “The EOD field is a close-knit family across the Department of Defense, and with our EOD brothers from the Air Force, they’re more than welcome to join us and participate so we can learn from each other.” 

The Marines and Airmen staged the ordnance detonations so the explosions would mimic the patterns of rounds actually fired from artillery positions, which included 81mm mortar rounds and 155mm Howitzer rounds.

“If EOD technicians are called out to the site of a mortar attack, for example, they can use the post-blast analysis techniques they learned here to examine the blast crater to estimate the distance and location of the origin of the attack to help stage a counterattack,” Eyrick said. “They also examine fragments of the rounds to identify the type of ordinance used by the enemy.”

According to Staff Sgt. Joshua Firth, a section leader with 2nd Plt, EOD Co., the training also gave the Marines and Airmen a chance to practice disposing of newer types of heavy explosive ordinance, which are harder to detonate by older techniques and procedures. 

“With the way newer explosives are being designed today, manufacturers are aiming for better safety with transport and storage, as well as longevity, and those new explosives are harder to initiate under traditional means,” Firth said. “We use the applied physics of explosive theory to impart more energy onto the ordinance item itself to trigger the main charge.”

For Air Force Staff Sgt. Colin Frost, an EOD technician with EOD Flight, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron, the training evolution exposed him to years of valuable real-world experience.

“It’s true that we’re different branches, but EOD goes across the entire spectrum of the military,” Frost said. “There’s a lot of knowledge that we can gain from them and their senior technicians' real-world experience is extremely valuable and it shows in their instruction.”