Where There’s Smoke, There’s “Fire in the Hole!”
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa
Members of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Explosive Ordnance Disposal (CJTF-HOA EOD) team continued their work with their French counterparts by clearing parts of the Djiboutian Range Complex and disposing of unexploded ordnance (UXO) left behind by past training missions, Nov. 6, 2017.
While the objective of the teams is to provide safer pathways for future training missions as well as for Djiboutians who accidentally travel through the cordoned area, the team members also honed skills needed in the event they would get called out to detonate UXO in unfamiliar areas. Missions like this one provide unique opportunities for members of the CJTF-HOA EOD team to strengthen bonds with their French partners.
“I had said last year that I would suggest partnering with American forces again, and so I am glad we are here working together,” said the officer in charge of the French EOD team on site.
Starting in a side-by-side line, each team worked at a slow and steady pace as they walked across their cordoned area of the complex, searching for anything concerning. Ordnance can be smaller than a baseball, making the search on the rocky desert ground a tedious process.
“It takes a lot of time to do this,” said the French officer. “But I would rather spend all day out here and move slowly and carefully, than compromise safety.”
Safety was a common thread that linked the leaders of both teams not only as they worked to clear the range, but also on any mission like this. As UXO were identified in the field, they were either rendered safe or disposed of by detonation.
Render-safe procedures are applied to the ordnance to prepare it for detonation. A call on the radio confirms that all members from both teams are accounted for and away from the blast area.
“Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!” is followed by an explosion, and a cloud of smoke confirms the safe disposal of the ordnance.
Because the teams are thorough, the process of sweeping for and detonating UXO is time-consuming, and they will need to return to the range to complete the mission.
The partnership between the American and French EOD teams in Djibouti is something both parties are excited to continue.
“I look forward to working with them again,” said the French Captain. “Even though we are from different places, and speak different languages, we are all soldiers. And any day that we all go home safe is a good day of work.”