Skip to comments.Locals Turn in Munitions (Small rewards program results in big explosion)
Posted on 09/07/2007 4:03:38 PM PDT by SandRat
9/7/2007 - MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- A small rewards program led to a big explosion as explosive ordnance disposal Airmen detonated more than 900 pounds of munitions turned in by local Afghans Sept. 1 near Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam.
The detonation destroyed mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, rockets, bullets and other bomb-making materials, all which were turned in by Afghans who discovered the items in their fields, homes or in village weapon caches.
"The locals are pretty tolerant about these detonations," said Tech. Sgt. Alan Powell, the EOD superintendent at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, home to the Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team. "They are all about getting rid of these things, out of their villages and off the roads."
The small rewards program, which has been in existence for about two years, allows Afghans to turn in weapons and munitions for a cash reward and no penalties. The program is just part of the Laghman PRT's mission, which serves to provide international aid to the area via reconstruction projects, humanitarian aid delivery, and security backed by national and coalition forces. They are also responsible for disarming and demobilizing militia forces and terrorist activity throughout the region with the help of the locals.
"The money is a motivation, of course," said Master Sgt. Robert Wagner, a small rewards program pay agent and PRT civil engineer specialist deployed from Davis-Montham Air Force Base, Ariz. "But the Afghans are also tired of the violence. It was really bad before this program -- people getting hurt or killed, kids losing their limbs."
Every time a weapon is given to the PRT, it is inspected and documented by the EOD Airmen, who then go out once a month and detonate the items. With security provided by infantry Soldiers, a team of EOD Airmen and volunteers from the PRT drive out to the nearby mountains and prepare the detonation site.
"It's a little like a three-ring circus sometimes, with so much to keep in mind," Sergeant Powell said. "There's security, and keeping the locals who come out to watch at a safe distance, the safety of your people, making sure everyone is paying attention and handling the items correctly. It takes a lot of teamwork to get this all accomplished."
The munitions are carefully stacked like a sort of layer-cake, with C-4 explosives packed in between the layers to ensure a complete detonation, a process that can take hours depending on the amount of munitions. Once everything is wired and ready to go, the Airmen and Soldiers drive out to a safe distance and, with the push of a button, watch the munitions go up in smoke.
It's just another part of a mission that keeps them very busy, Sergeant Powell said. The EOD Airmen spend the majority of their time dismantling roadside bombs or other explosive devices that are reported to the FOB.
"We are one of the busiest EOD teams in Afghanistan," he said. "It really doesn't make any sense, though. Considering that we are not on any border, we don't have the biggest population of people, the roads are not very good for transportation ... there's just no rhyme or reason as to why all the ordnance is here."
Unfortunately, the PRT has become all too familiar with that threat. One of the team's Soldiers, Army Sgt. Charles Browning, an infantry security specialist, was killed June 1 when his Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device. The other vehicle passengers also suffered injuries and had to be evacuated.
That incident, and the potential for others like it, motivates the Airmen and Soldiers here to continue to seek out and destroy dangerous material throughout the region, Sergeant Powell said.
"Every time we do this, we're making this province a little safer for all of us," he said.
An Air Force explosive ordnance disposal specialist readies ammunition for a controlled detonation Sept. 1 at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. Nearly 900 pounds of small arms ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were turned in by provincial citizens. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)
MORE good news. Thanks, SR.
I seriously doubt that all the ordinance is there. It's more like that there in a secured interior area the Afghanis feel more safe turning the ordinance in.
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