Marines and personnel with MCAS Beaufort completed two mission critical tasks, a munition disposal and a hazard reduction burn, at Townsend Bombing Range, Jan 26.
Marines with Explosive Ordnance Disposal disposed of a munition to allow range personnel to safely drive vehicles around the target points. The EOD Marines are with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Marine Aircraft Group 31.
The civilian personnel with the Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Office conducted the hazard reduction burn to reduce the risk of wildfires and to promote growth of wildlife and vegetation.
“Today we did a controlled burn of 110 acres next to the impact area,” said Eddie Reese, the forester with Townsend Bombing Range. “The hazard reduction is done to mitigate the risk in case a pilot missed the target area, it doesn’t start a wildfire. Here in the south, wildfires are the number one risk in timber management. This burn is necessary to make sure that our range is safe and ready for the pilots.”
Reese and his team set up a backing fire against the wind to begin the hazard reduction burn. This created a barrier on the backside of the plot of land, in addition to the perimeter that was already set up. Keeping safety in mind, the team began to set strip fires to burn small strips of the plot, using the wind to move the fire.
“The second reason we did this burn is because it will benefit the wildlife habitat,” said Reese. “It allows continued growth and foliage for the habitat as well as provides the adequate space for deer, quail, and wild turkeys to live.”
In addition to the hazard reduction burn, the Marines of EOD went around to each target point where pilots drop inert munitions to check for any munitions with a spotting round in them. A spotting round is a small explosive charge used to show pilots where their inert munitions impacted. If the spotting charge is still intact, then it has the potential to damage range vehicles it comes in contact with.
“We came out here today because the range personnel requested our services,” said Master Sgt. Brian Diaz, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of EOD with MCAS Beaufort. “We determined whether each munition found was hazardous, could be moved, or needed to be disposed of. We had one munition that we were unsure as to whether it had a spotting round still in it so we were able to train, utilize our explosives and dispose of the hazard.”
After completing the disposal process, the EOD Marines traveled back to the air station while the range personnel finished up the controlled burn, ultimately ensuring the range is ready to be used to train Fightertown aircrew.
“Our entire purpose is to make sure that this range is ready for the warfighter,” said Kevin Suitt, the Range Officer in Charge. “Today we were able to accomplish two tasks; hazard reduction burns and munition hazard disposal. It’s a daily process keeping the range ready, but we do it so our aviators can stay sharp and complete their training.”