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U.S. Army Technical Center for Explosive Safety
McAlester, Okla.

Editor’s note: The following article is based on an actual court martial proceeding that occurred several years ago. It is being reprinted with permission from the U.S. Army Technical Center for Explosive Safety’s spring 2012 Explosives Safety Bulletin.

As the staff sergeant walked into the military courtroom to hear his fate, he had no idea what was about to happen to his military career. If he had only stopped and thought about what could go wrong, the sequence of events would certainly have been different.

The court was called to order. The staff sergeant and his defense counsel stood nervously, awaiting the verdict. As he waited, his mind wandered back several months to the day he cleaned out his range bag from the field exercise his unit just completed. The little cache of simulators he had accumulated over the weeklong exercise would really make for a great Fourth of July celebration at the lake. The artillery simulators would definitely make for one loud boom, and those green and red star clusters would look impressive with the rest of the fireworks he bought downtown.

He stashed the simulators in the front hallway closet of his on-base apartment since it was only a few days until the holiday weekend trip to the lake to celebrate America’s birthday. He didn’t realize that when he closed the door to the closet, the bag was jarred enough that one of the artillery simulators bounced out. Through opening and closing the door many times over the next few days, the pull cord on the simulator got tangled in the strings on a pair of shoes. As his wife later pulled the shoes out of the closet, the cord on the simulator was also pulled. The simulator began to whistle, and she realized something was not right. She did her best to back away from the door as the simulator exploded, knocking her against the hallway wall.

The explosion sent her into shock and caught the clothes in the closet on fire. Fortunately, the neighbors helped her and her 4-year-old daughter out of the apartment and extinguished the flames before the fire department and authorities arrived. Luckily, the other items did not ignite or detonate, which would have increased the size of the fire and endangered the entire building.

As the military police, explosives ordnance disposal detachment specialists and criminal investigation division officers began to investigate the events, it was evident the young staff sergeant made several mistakes during the last training exercise in which he would ever participate. The judge’s gavel brought him back to reality as the verdict was read. His fate was sealed as the judge found him guilty on eight different charges and sentenced him to 10 years of hard labor, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction to the lowest military rank and dismissal from the U.S. Army with a dishonorable discharge. His 11-year career was history, his family lost all its military benefits and their lives would never be the same again.

The staff sergeant just forgot to think. He never considered the consequences of what would happen if his wife or daughter was hurt or killed if the simulator cache accidently exploded. If his daughter had opened the door and pulled those shoes out, she would not have realized what the whistling meant and could have possibly been seriously injured or killed. Those seemingly harmless simulators used in training are actually quite dangerous and can cause death. Unfortunately, we all go through those times when we think we can get away with things, and this one could have cost this family everything.

Always remember, military munitions are not toys and should never be removed from the training areas or exercises. In the wrong hands, they can cause pain and suffering to the ones we love. So, next time someone tells you they have the stars and boomers for the fireworks show, make sure they’re talking about commercial fireworks you can legally buy at a stand, not military simulators and pyrotechnics.

  • 24 August 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 1199
  • Comments: 0