Article submitted by Ms. Julia Bobick, U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
As U.S. units prepare to depart Afghanistan, military leaders must determine whether to send their excess munitions home or if it is safer and/or more cost effective to destroy them in country. The Joint Munitions Disposal - Afghanistan (JMD-A) team from the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, supports those units by disposing of U.S. and NATO Condition Code H unserviceable and "do-not-return" munitions, as well as captured enemy munitions and explosive remnants of war (ERW).
"Some of the munitions have been out at forward locations for more than 10 years; a lot of times they've been in open storage exposed to the elements or have been rucked around on patrol by the troops," said Chase Hamley, JMD-A project manager in Huntsville Center's Ordnance and Explosives Directorate (OE) International Operations (IO) Division. "Things happen along the way that makes them unserviceable. In addition, there are a lot of situations where shipping the munitions back to the U.S. costs more than the items do in new condition."
More than 3,575 tons of ammunition have been destroyed in Afghanistan to date as a result of U.S. military forces moving in and out of the country, according to Bob Britton, JMD-A lead program manager in the IO Division.
It is the military leaders and their staffs who identify what munitions are to be disposed of, said Hamley, adding that the list of excess and do-not-return munitions is consolidated and maintained at the Pentagon level. The JMD-A team coordinates disposal efforts with the military units and manages the munitions disposal contract with Sterling Global Operations Inc., headquartered in Lenoir City, Tenn., which specializes in demining, clearance of explosive remnants of war and management of ammunition physical security and stockpiles.
The contractor receives the ordnance from the military units at a designated ammunition point and logs all munitions received not only in its database but also in the military's tracking system. Once the contractor constructs demolition "shots" out of the items they've received, Hamley said military and contract employees execute the movement to a range and conduct the demolition operation - such as open burning or detonation - according to the type of munitions.