Feature Search

Collaboration of effort eliminates risk, preserves wildlife

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitney Tucker
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The discovery of two World War II era bombs at Northwest Field here, launched the formation of a cohesive team and culminated in the successful detonation of the ordnance May 17.

Members of the 36th Wing, U.S. Coast Guard, Guam Police Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked together to ensure the disposal of the explosives, which weighed a collective 600 pounds.

"The bombs were first discovered by archaeologists hired by the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron to survey Northwest Field," said Capt. Stephanie Nichols, 36 CE Construction Management chief. "There were a lot of reservations and concerns about detonating the bombs in-place, due to the presence of the only remaining mature Serianthes Nelsonii on Guam."

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Serianthes Nelsonii, known on Guam as the Hayun Iagu tree, was listed as federally endangered in 1987.

"After careful evaluation and analysis," Captain Nichols said, "our recommendation to U.S. Fish and Wildlife was that because the bomb had come to rest in a 15-foot deep depression, and the foliage between it and the tree was extremely thick, there would be a very small chance the tree would be affected by the blast."

David Lotz, 36 CES Conservation Resources Chief echoed Capt. Nichol's reflections.

"The 500-pound bomb was located in what appeared to be a very large limestone bowl that had formed naturally over time," he said. "This and other factors led us to believe that, even with a very large detonation, it was unlikely the tree would come to any harm."

Though risk appeared to be inconsequential, precautions were taken and an incident command was stood up.

"Having 36th Wing Safety involved in an operation like this is very important due to the possibility of a severe mishap occurring which could endanger members of the public, military personnel and explosive ordnance disposal technicians," said Tech. Sgt. Leonides Rivera, 36th Wing Weapons Safety manager. "We reviewed safety procedures to ensure all parties knew their roles and responsibilities in case a mishap occurred. These procedures, if needed, would be lead by EOD or the Fire Department, based upon the severity of the incident."

When the smoke cleared and the ground settled, the Hayun Iagu emerged unscathed and the explosives had been destroyed.

"Many organizations and agencies made this operation a success," Sergeant Rivera said. "We had tremendous coordination and cooperation among all parties, both on and off-base. Because of everyone's hard work, we were successful in eliminating the risk these bombs posed to the local community and military members alike."