With spring around the corner, Fort Drum safety officials and explosives experts took time this week to encourage community members to be vigilant in the unlikely event that they encounter unexploded ordnance (UXO) on post.
“Of course, the impact areas on Fort Drum ranges are the (most likely) places for UXOs,” said Joseph Semones, garrison safety director. “But if a Family Member – especially a child – happened to come across something that they have never seen before, they should not touch it. Call 911.”
Officials with the Command Safety Office said even though unsecured munitions do not frequently present a problem at Fort Drum, community members should still bear in mind the “Three Rs” of unexploded ordnance – “Recognize, Retreat and Report.”
Recognizing the situation means first realizing an unidentified object could be dangerous.
Retreating involves leaving the object undisturbed and carefully retracing one’s steps out of the area.
Reporting requires immediately notifying authorities and describing as much as possible regarding the environment and location that the UXO was discovered.
“That’s the main takeaway here,” said Bill Bellis, Fort Drum’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance manager. “It is about situational awareness and knowing what to do if you think you have encountered unexploded ordnance.”
Officials said the most likely scenario of a Family Member being exposed to UXO at Fort Drum would involve the uncommon occurrence of a parent bringing home a “dud” from training or deployment as a souvenir or war trophy.
But Capt. Timothy Dwyer, commander of 754th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 63rd Ordnance Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, said there is no such thing as a dud.
He warned Soldiers that unidentified pieces of ordnance can detonate at any moment – even in the hands of experienced EOD professionals.
“A common misconception is that a UXO is a ‘dud.’ If people identify a piece of ordnance as a ‘dud,’ they feel it is safe enough to pick up and bring home as a souvenir,” Dwyer said. “The problem is that for the average Soldier, it is not possible to accurately determine the state of the fuse. It essentially remains in its current state until an outside force acts upon it.
“That’s why all UXOs must be treated as armed munitions waiting for the proper outside force to detonate them,” he added.
Semones said Soldiers who make the mistake of bringing munitions into their home should seriously consider doing the responsible thing: Turn over any keepsake that could place their Family in danger.
Dwyer pointed out that an amnesty program at Fort Drum makes it easy for Soldiers on post to turn in munitions – no questions asked. (See below.)
“The penalties for possessing UXO only come when you get caught with it,” Bellis noted.
In addition to turning up in a home, UXO can appear anywhere on a military installation, which is why parents need to clearly communicate and educate their children on the potential hazards.
For one thing, officials said Family Members should always keep out of restricted areas such as ranges or other locations marked with warning signs.
And because children are naturally curious, caution should be especially exercised among teens who love playing outdoors, making forts in the woods or exploring their surroundings.
During the springtime thaw, a piece of buried ordnance could conceivably get pushed to the surface, Semones said.
As a part of the safety office’s campaign to raise awareness of the potential for UXO, Bellis said several resources are available to the community, including downloadable coloring books for kids titled “Sergeant Woof” in which a dog walks children through the “Three Rs.”
Community members interested in learning more may visit www.denix.osd.mil/uxo/. For children’s resources, click on the link “Just for Kids” in the bottom right corner of the homepage.
“Families need to educate their children in how to recognize (potentially dangerous) situations,” Semones said. “With a little vigilance, and keeping in mind the three Rs, Fort Drum will continue to be a safe community.”
For more information regarding Fort Drum’s amnesty program, call the Ammunition Supply Point at 772-5596 during normal duty hours. Ammunition must be tran-sported to the ASP in a military vehicle.
If UXO is discovered on post after duty hours, contact the Mountain Operations Center at 772-6324 or 772-8620. If on a range, contact Range Control at 772-7152.
To contact the Fort Drum Command Safety Office with any questions, call 772-0522.