Bomb technicians from Saipan to rid island of dangerous WWII relics
MARPI, Guam – Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) technicians from Saipan and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians from the U.S. Navy and Air Force collaborated to dispose of approximately 600 pounds of UXOs from World War II Aug. 28 – Aug. 30.
For more than 10 years, Saipan’s Department of Public Safety, including its Tactical Response Enforcement Team (TRET) and Explosive Response Team (XRT) have worked alongside service members from EOD Mobile Unit 5 Detachment Marianas, stationed in Guam. EOD personnel from the Air Force 36th EOD Detachment, attached to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, participated in the training and contributed to the UXO disposal.
“We have a great special relationship with the Navy,” said Police Officer 2 Jason Tarkong, a 22-year veteran attached to the Department of Public Safety’s Enforcement Action Section in Saipan. “Collectively, we are disposing of this ordnance and there is a lot still on the island.”
EOD Mobile Unit 5 Detachment Marianas’ primary mission is to locate, identify and render safe or dispose of land or water-based ordnance within the Joint Region Marianas area of operations. Any ordnance found constitutes an emergency operation because life and critical infrastructure are at risk.
“Safety, safety, safety – those are the key words here since it is not only for the public but also for the officers involved,” said Tarkong. “Ordnance could leak and hurt you or me, but there are a lot of construction and kids playing in the woods here. Without these operations, the next thing you know they could handle something and get hurt.”
In total, three emergency operations have been performed this year, disposing of approximately 2,400 pounds of UXOs.
EOD Technician 1st Class Andrew Burn, attached to EOD Detachment Marianas said that learning and working with professionals from other services and countries offers a unique opportunity.
“UXOs are a problem for many reasons,” he said. “Islands such as Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Rota have a lot of children on island that may not get the education and training to understand why they should not be handling a lot of these items.”
Airman 1st Class Nicolas Bustos, attached to the Air Force 36th EOD Detachment, said the inter-agency collaboration has been beneficial, not only in understanding each other’s operating procedures but also building comradery and friendships.
“This is my first time doing a joint operation with the Navy EOD technicians so we can get to know how we both operate so future operations are not a novel experience,” he said. “Working in Saipan allows the same experience with our partners so we can all work together effectively.”
Tarkong and Burn stressed the need for continuing these missions to dispose of UXO remnants but also to continue educating the local population. When ordnance is found, it must be considered unstable and only handled by trained professionals.
“The experience is truly great in that we all learn about safety and keeping the community safe as well as the people that handle the explosives,” Tarkong said. “These missions have enhanced our skills, not only as police officers, but also as SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactical Officers). Helping people recognize the types of ordnance threats out there is key.”
He said the resources of Saipan may be limited in terms of manpower, but with the help of the U.S. military, these types of operations will continue to be successful for years to come.
“I enjoy working with the U.S. Navy and Air Force,” Tarkong said. “It is an honor and a great opportunity to learn and make deep meaningful relationships.”