MUBARAK MILITARY CITY, EGYPT -- Here in the "land of milk and honey," the Pyramids of Giza, and the resting spot of King Tut leave many who witness them in amazement. Few things in the desert, besides these monuments of early civilization, stand up against the desolation and harsh elements of the desert. On the other hand, world-wide, few things stand up against the Marines of MEU Service Support Group 13 EOD Detachment and a few bricks of Composition-Four.
Most recently, the Marines from EOD moved into the desert ranges here with the intent of purifying thier art in the language of demolition.
“The mission of EOD is to identify, render safe and dispose of any ordnance or improvised explosive devices, in support of the (Marine Air-Ground Task Force),” said Gunnery Sgt. Ivan Mendozavalencia, who goes by the nickname “Gunny M.V.”
The EOD detachment chief took the opportunity during the multinational coalition exercise "Bright Star," which takes place every two years in Egypt, to find a secluded designated demolition range to build and employ charges with the help of a few mathematic equations.
The EOD field is unique, said Mendozavalencia, in that it employs charges primarily utilizing Compostion-4, a waxy, brick form substance, with a blindingly high explosive speed.
The charge can be molded, cut, broken and modified to suit nearly any ordnance disposal situation. The reason C-4 is almost exclusively used is because of its high detonation speed – 27,400 feet per second, he said.
“The reason we don’t use TNT or Composition-B is because they have slower explosion speeds, and they’re meant more for moving earth and construction. The (C-4) is so fast, it pretty much destroys anything when used properly.”
The proper application of such sensitive material, however, is no walk in the park. Due to the violent and scientific nature of the EOD field, each charge is meticulously calculated and assembled to insure maximum effectiveness and safety.
“Anything we do, it’s like a language,” he said, “You’re always learning something new. And to stay proficient is absolutely necessary.”
Throughout the course of the day, the seven Marines from the EOD detachment gave short classes to one another about the protocol, science, assembly and ultimate capabilities of various demolition charges.
While the Marines of EOD are few in numbers within the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), the mission is more important than can be summarized in words.
“Right now with the war (in Iraq and Afghanistan) our biggest mission is IED response,” said Gunny M.V. “The second would be weapons cache destruction.”
The most important priority for EOD, he said, is protecting the individual warriors of battle.
“We’re here for the young Marines that walk or ride out on patrols, or sit in the turrets,” he added.
Another unique and critical aspect of the EOD detachment is flawless teamwork, said Gunny M.V., regardless of personal relationships.
“I always tell the guys, we don’t have to get along and we don’t have to be friends, but when we’re in uniform we have to work together, because other peoples’ lives depend on it.”
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Bracher, an EOD technician, reiterated the sentiment.
“There’s more camaraderie and togetherness among us,” said the Rabbit Ridge, Kentucky native. “We deal with more mature people.”
“When dealing with IEDs, you can’t worry about knuckleheads goofing off and getting everyone killed,” he said.
After several hours of assembling and calculating demolition charges, servicemembers from the Netherlands arrived on the site to observe the Marines and discuss capabilities and future joint training endeavors, an opportunity which, as Bracher will tell you, is unique as Exercise Bright Star itself.
“It’s always good to train with other countries, and I look forward to working with Germans, Dutch, French and other forces,” he said. “It’s always educational to work with someone else and see how they’re dealing with their demolitions.”
For more information about the Marines of MSSG 13 and the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), visit the unit's Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.