Members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 (EODMU 8), Platoon 802 wrapped up their participation in exercise Open Spirit 2014, May 22.
Held annually in one of the Baltic States, the exercise aims to clear shipping routes, communication lines, and fishing areas and search for and dispose of explosive ordnance left over on the bottom of the Baltic Sea from World Wars I and II.
EODMU 8 participated in mine counter-measure operations off the western coast of Latvia for their part of the exercise. During the exercise, EODMU 8 worked in conjunction with EOD teams from Canada, Estonia, Latvia and Poland to dispose of two mines and a depth charge. They also field tested a new autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), the Iver III, that aided in finding the explosives.
“It went well. We came in [to the exercise] with a rough understanding of the operational environment, then assessed and executed from there,” said Lt. Mikel Rodriguez, EODMU 8 Mine Counter-Measures company commander. “We accomplished a lot.”
Mine disposal is a process that takes place in several parts. Mines are first found and identified using either divers or with the aid of AUVs and robots equipped with side-scan SONAR and video cameras. EOD technicians dive on the mine to perform reconnaissance, check for hazards and to verify the mine can be safely moved. After the reconnaissance dive, the mine is prepped for removal as detonating it in place could set off other nearby mines.
The conventional means for removal is attaching lifting straps or using a cargo net to lift the mine, which is attached to a lift balloon that is inflated and brought to the surface. It is then towed to a safe area where it is lowered back down to the seafloor, rigged with a demolition charge and safely detonated.
“A tight-knit team with focus on mission success is capable of accomplishing even the most challenging task,” said EOD Technician 1st Class Dustin Lawson, EODMU 8, Platoon 802 leading petty officer, of his team.
Exercise Open Spirit 2014 is led by Latvian Naval Force Flotilla, consisting of 26 ships and five dive teams from 13 countries; two Maritime Mine Counter-Measure units, the Baltic Naval Squadron and the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1.
Press Release, May 23, 2014; Image: US Navy