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Marines get to grips with ammo

By 1Lt Alexander Barb
First published in
SFOR Informer #97, September 27, 2000

Oskova - On the top of a barren hill, is a camp, and an entire programme.
Twelve men work there. American Marines. And they don't come here to accomplish elite commando missions, but to do specialised operations.
In their workshops, all kinds of ammo is stocked up along with anti-personnel mines and high-explosive shells. Their mission: disable them and convert the ammo for use in more realistic training.
More than 800 of these weapons are already converted.
The ammo is collected during Operation Harvest and after clearing bombed out factories. They are sent to the United States, France and to the School of Combat Engineering of Angers (France) for EOD training (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) or used for field training of demining teams.
Chief Warrant officer Robert Hayworth, who is leading the tour, enrolled as a Marine in 1982. He is qualified for EOD and is world famous for his technical skills in demining.
"I remember that in Angers, in 1998, during my demining training, the French killed me. Boom, you're dead! Luckily the mine had been neutralised but I'll remember that day all my life," Hayworth said.
Depending on which type of ammo is being used, they are spread out in different types of workshops to be disassembled and put back together without the explosive charge. A red sticker indicates they have been neutralised. Sometimes the ammo or explosives they get make is hard to identify as armed or not. Technology then comes to the rescue of the Marines.
"With this scanner, we can see on a computer screen what's inside of the mine. That way we know how it was put together and what we need to do to neutralise it," said Hayworth.
When they are dealing with machine gun bullets, the bullets are drilled out from behind a bullet-proof window using mechanical arms. That way if it blows up it can't hurt anyone.
"This morning, for example, I was drilling a bullet with 10 grams of powder and it blew up," said Hayworth. "If I didn't have the mechanical arms, my hands would be gone."
But Hayworth's joy and pride is his shell purification basin. Hand made with common materials tonly the compressor was purchased.
"We didn't get any money to build this system," Hayworth said. "So we had to do it ourselves."
Because this basin can be taken apart quickly it represents one of the main advantages of this team that can be projected on any theatre.
The basin looks like a huge washing machine where the shells are place into. Then they are washed by high-pressure water heated at 200 C, which liquifies the explosive charge of the TNT and is it's then collected in a bucket and solidified. The water contaminated by the TNT is immediately recycled.
"This system allows us to respect the environment which is part of SFOR's mission." Hayworth said. "We also destroy the ammo that we can't neutralise in a 12-foot deep hole filled with sand and surrounded by two barriers made of tyres. That way the explosions make less noise and neighbours don't complain."
Nevertheless, the task is still tremendous. The marines who arrived in August should stay until December. They hope to neutralise three thousand explosives. For the moment they don't know what their next mission will be, but they know that wherever they will be sent they will help contribute to peace.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: US
SFOR at Work