Having a Blast

Two stories about demolitions.

John B in the comments of the earlier posts talks about routinely training on demolitions. It’s a perishable skill. Practice may not make perfect, but it DOES keep you from blowing yourself up.

In the run-up to Desert Storm, I was the only guy in my entire company that had ever done live demolitions before. Accordingly, I was tasked to “train the trainer” and teach representatives from each platoon in the company how to rig some simple non-electric charges for breaching minefields. We had plenty of demolitions equipment- C-4, det cord, time fuse, igniters, and what have you. But no training materiel. Given that, all our training was live fire. Still, it’s not rocket science. After setting up (and blowing) a few charges, the newly trained “Subject Matter Experts” went back to their own platoons, and began to teach them. I wandered from platoon to platoon to check up on them. Most of them caught on very quickly.

One platoon, however, had a misfire. They pulled the fuse igniter. They waited the appointed time. No boom. Not good. They waited the required interval to ensure it wasn’t just a delayed explosion. Still nothing. Getting engineers or EOD out (as normal range practice would require) wasn’t really an option in the desert. So I was nominated to begin OTJ training for EOD.

I very slowly walked up to their charges, thinking that it would be a damn shame if Mrs. Xbrad’s little boy was kilt, and by a US caused accident at that. Turns out, there was very little risk of that happening.

The charge was laid out almost exactly as if they had consulted the manual. They could have been justifiably proud of their handiwork. Except for one little problem.

The fuse igniter had worked as advertised. The reason it hadn’t ignited the fuse? Well, they apparently got confused somewhere, because they were using det cord for fuse. And everywhere they should have had det cord, they had time fuse.


The other incident took place back when I first received demo training in Hawaii.  Det cord is often used to cut down trees and telephone poles. And sure enough, one of the “targets” on the demo range was a telephone pole. My battle buddy and I figured chopping it neatly in half would be pretty nifty. So we wrapped det cord around it. And wrapped and wrapped. I’d guess we probably put about 20 or 3o wraps around that thing.

The only problem? Nobody told us that cutting a telephone pole only takes about 2 wraps of det cord. PETN is pretty powerful stuff.

When we cranked the blasting machine, the top half of that pole went up like a Saturn V rocket.  When you’re 300 meters from the blast, and it there’s a real possibility you might have to dodge half a telephone pole, you just might have used too much.

4 thoughts on “Having a Blast”

  1. I never received any demo training. It’s probably a good thing. I used to believe, until I became a parent, if a little bit of something works then a lot will work much better.

  2. Had a similar experience when as a 1LT I ran the battalion demo range at Graf in JAN 84. We had a butt load of demo to blow up and it was getting close to mandatory 1600 shut down…and I didn’t want to spend the night on the range!

    We were limited to no more than 50 pounds of charge at a time in the pit. So I solved it by making sandbag charges which the troops loaded with 40 pounds of demo.

    Did I mention we made 18 of these?

    So we cut the time fuze so they would blow at 20 second intervals. All was well on 1…2…3…4 and so on until 16. No boom. 17…no boom. 18…no boom. I looked at my watch…it was 1537. Range control uisually started an orderly shut down of all ranges starting at 1545.

    I waited the 10 minutes by the book and range control called to shut us down. I screamed for my RTO to ask for 5 more minutes. I grabbed a 1/4 pound stick, a fuze igniter and about 15 seconds of fuze. I snuck around the berm and saw that the 3 charges had been knocked over by concussion of the other blasts and that the igniters had popped along with a single 1/4lb charge but not the full bags.

    I then proceeded to sprint into the pit, pile all of the demo into a single pile and then wedged the quarter pound stick into the pile and puilled the fuze igniter…and the took off in a dead sprint for the opening of the berm.

    I dove against the berm, very load BOOM ensued and then I screamed to my RTO to request range control for shut down.

    My company CO was there watching me and decided 2 things….1) maybe it was time for his XO to not run ranges anymore and 2) his XO was the luckiest SOB in the battalion.

    I learned a big lesson that day….be confident but don’t get cocky!

    PS: Earliewr that day I also found out that if you take two 40lb shape charges, lay them on their sides about 30 feet apart, aim them at each other and detonate with an electrical blasting machine it looks just like a nuke going off!

    1. PS: Earliewr that day I also found out that if you take two 40lb shape charges, lay them on their sides about 30 feet apart, aim them at each other and detonate with an electrical blasting machine it looks just like a nuke going off!

      Awesome! that beats the heck out of the “faux” nuke training aid I saw “touched off” in the mis 70’s.

      Grumpy Old Badger

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