This is another tale from my time as an EOD tech at Ft Dix, New Jersey.
It was summer and we had to perform range clearances. There were many different kinds of ranges, each set up for firing a different kind of ordnance, from 40 Millimeter grenades that are fired from a tube under some M16's called an M203, to 155 Millimeter Howitzer shells. On that day, we had to clear the LAWS rocket practice range. Instead of shooting actual rockets, for training purposes, they shot these little blue tipped rockets to save money and reduce the amount of damage done to the range equipment. The equipment was an armored vehicle that was towed back and forth on a set of railroad tracks.
They were small, but still had a small explosive tip and need to be handled with respect. The Render Safe Procedure allowed them to be moved, so we spread out in a line and picked up the duds as we went, collecting them in a pile. After a few hours of this, we'd scoured the entire range. I won’t name names, but in the end there were two others there with me. An officer that was new to the company, and another sergeant.
I don’t recall who came up with the idea. I only remember talking to the other sergeant and thinking it was a fine idea if we stacked all of the practice rounds inside the armored vehicle, along with the entire case of C-4 we'd brought to ensure total destruction. We had some Flex-X as well to maintain explosive continuity. We strolled up to the new officer and asked him if it was okay. He didn’t even hesitate, just told us to get it done. We giggled like school boys all the way back to the armored vehicle.
Once we were done setting everything up, we pulled the two initiators and shut the back doors. We'd set the charge for fifteen minutes, plenty of time to stroll back to the burm at the front of the range and then climb up the fifty-foot ladder to the observation tower. We sat there with or new officer trying to look nonchalant.
The charge went off right on time, blowing one of the back doors open and throwing the other at least sixty feet into the air. It hung there like a bloated kite, then fell back to the ground and sliced through the two rail lines like a hot knife through butter. The sound was muted from distance and being partially contained which made it seem less real. We'd just registered the damage to the vehicle and tracks that we would have a tough time explaining, when we heard the sounds of something cutting through the air. The noise was getting closer, and we all spotted it at the same time. It was the six in thick, armored hatch from the top of the vehicle, and it was coming directly for us as if it were nothing more than a Frisbee, tossed by some child.
A 400 pound Frisbee traveling at about thirty miles an hour.
There was nothing to do but watch it come. We were fifty feet up in a range tower that sat on a berm that was thirty feel above the level ground. When it was less than three hundred yards away, it started to cant to our right. I still thought it would cut through the tower's support and we would all be going on Mr. Toad's wild ride, but it canted even further until it passed us and shot into the trees next to the entrance road. There was a crashing noise, louder than the initial explosion and two pine trees were cut clean through before the damned thing imbedded itself into the New Jersey sand.
The expression on the young officer's face can best be described as a combination of surprise, relief and the haunted look of one that knows his ass will be grass. It was time to leave, and we broke speed records for ladder climbing, berm running and sand sprinting. We hopped in our truck and flew out of there without so much as a glance back for fear we would see someone witness our escape.
The next day, calls were made, asses were chewed and a new officer had been broken in right.