Guam airfield remediation training is dynamite

12 February 2024

Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians from 65 Air Base Recovery Squadron (65ABRS) kicked off Exercise Cope North with a remediation scenario alongside their United States Air Force counterparts.

A bilateral combined EOD team responded to a simulated airstrike on Runway Thunder at Northwest Field in Guam that had rendered the airfield inoperable due to unexploded ordnance (UXO) submunition fields.

Once the damage and remaining UXO were assessed, a rapid explosive hazard mitigation team was dispatched to remediate the airfield, explained Flight Lieutenant Thomas Riches, the 5 Section Commander from 65ABRS.

“A number of techniques were used including mass mechanical clearing, directed energy systems, as well as destroying the UXO with high explosive donor charges in a technique called 'blow and go',” Flight Lieutenant Riches said.

“Conducting this training in Guam is hugely beneficial as we have access to a full-length sealed runway, allowing us to perform more realistic training. Currently there is no facility in Australia that permits this training freedom.”

Hosted by USAF’s 544th Red Horse Squadron, the two countries joined forces to overcome the challenge of clearing UXO hazards across vast distances with limited personnel.

The teams used C-4 charges with pre-timed detonations for blow and go techniques, as well as a dedicated EOD-armoured vehicle called a RADBO.

USAF Technical Sergeant Schmidt, in charge of EOD contingency training at Anderson Air Force Base on the island, said the success of the mission was due to the combined efforts and new techniques learnt.

“These exercises are so important, due to the fact that EOD is a limited career field with limited manpower across all branches and all nations, so doing this bilateral operation we get to work together, learn new techniques from each other and build that interoperability,” Technical Sergeant Schmidt said. 

“In a real-world event we’ll most likely be spread so thin that we’re going to have to work with all of our partners.”

Exercise Cope North is a tri-lateral exercise between the USAF, RAAF and Japan Air Self-Defense Force in Guam, focusing on agile operations and seamless integration across all aspects of the coalition.

Flight Lieutenant Riches said a key objective of the exercise was to build interoperability and shared knowledge between the participating nations.

“Working with USAF EOD has been greatly beneficial for our operators to gain more experience and widen their knowledge base, giving more options against future threats,” he said.

“On top of this we have gained exposure to a range of equipment that is not available to RAAF EOD.”

RAAF personnel will remain deployed to Guam for Cope North until the exercise wraps up on February 23.



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