By Paige Gnann
The Mirror editor
When the phone rings at Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Six Detachment Mayport, you can pretty much bet that there is going to be an interesting story on the other end.
You know, like the time some divers found a World War II bomb lodged on the sea floor off the coast of Vero Beach and they had to dispose of it a mile off shore. Or the one about the unsuspecting kayakers who stumbled upon an illumination hand grenade on a deserted beach. Then there's the time that a rusting 70 mm rocket was discovered in the Ogeechee River around Savannah. They have also headed down to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) to help the installation safely dispose of unusable ammunition.
The mission of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team is to eliminate hazards from ordnance, which jeopardize operations conducted in support of the national security strategy by providing combat-ready EOD forces to the fleet.
OIC Lt. Matthew Grove said the team goes to GTMO around once a month to perform routine disposal of degraded ammunition or when a hapless person stumbles upon practice bombs buried in the sand.
The team of EOD technicians at Detachment Mayport are on call for ordnance response issues from Tallahassee eastward and down to the Bahamas, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay and Puerto Rico.
On average the detachment receives around 100 calls a year, and deploys approximately 60 times.
"It definitely helps keep our skills honed," said Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Ryan Waller. "It allows you to accomplish a wide variety of missions timely and safely."
Recently, the team responded to the discovery of a 1,000-pound World War II practice bomb and a smaller 500-pound bomb in the waters off of Vero Beach. The team spent almost a week carefully excavating, and then disposing of, the bombs with the help of local emergency crews and law enforcement.
"Navy EOD is the only EOD service that can handle ordnance in the water, because of diving," said Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Jonah Toy.
Down in the Ocala National Forest is the Navy's Pinecastle Impact Range. Owned by Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility (FACSFAC) Jacksonville, the range is a live ordnance impact area and is used by all services as a training area to teach pilots how to drop bombs.
The range site has been utilized by all services since the 1940s and it is not unusual for a World War II or Vietnam-era bomb to be uncovered on a windy or rainy day.
When an old bomb pops up, or when a bomb fails to detonate on impact during current day training, EOD is called in for disposal.
Unless it is an emergency, EOD usually goes down to Pinecastle once a quarter.
Their last trip down in February was to dispose of an old British MK1 bomb and 500 pound dud Mark 82 dropped during a recent training exercise.
Retired Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate (EOD) Chris Townsend retired from NS Mayport 13 years ago and now works at Pinecastle. He said he is grateful for the service EOD Detachment Mayport provides to the site. By utilizing Mayport instead of a contractor to dispose of the ordnance, Pinecastle is able to quickly eliminate hazardous material, as well as provide additional training for the EOD techs.
EOD mission support includes general ordnance handling, transportation, storage, disposal and/or safety missions, live fire training, range clearance and underwater ordnance testing.