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Vandenberg begins munitions removal operations

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 30th Space Wing weapons safety office, along with members of the Army Corps of Engineers and Shaw Environmental Inc., will begin surface clearance of munitions and explosives from several sites here Sept. 17. 

The first phase of the Military Munitions Removal Program actually began Sept. 14 with the mapping out of the 200-foot square search grids in which the teams will work. 

The munitions and explosives are left over from the days of Camp Cooke, when the Army owned the property on which Vandenberg now sits. During World War II and the Korean War, the Army used the land extensively for training anti-aircraft artillery, combat engineer and ordnance Soldiers, as well as armored and infantry divisions. 

Munitions removal operations will begin on North Base approximately one mile north of Space Launch Complex-2 where only a few dirt roads may be closed. Initially, the only areas affected will be areas without facilities or heavily traveled roads within the "munitions greatest fragmentation distance hazard" to ensure the safety of base personnel, said Master Sgt. Mark Vargas of the 30th SW weapons safety office. 

Once operations reach areas with facilities, heavy-use recreational areas and well-traveled roads, program team members will contact facility managers, commanders and other points of contact to devise plans to minimally impact operations. The 30th SW Public Affairs office will inform base personnel through Hot Launch e-mails. 

"We will protect personnel, environment, historic items, facilities, equipment mission and operations to the greatest degree possible," Sergeant Vargas said. 

If live explosives or munitions are found by the team members, they will first determine whether they can safely move the items for destruction. If moving the item is not safe, the team will schedule blow-in-place demolition operations with the 30th SW safety office. 

Unexploded ordnance found on Vandenberg in the past includes 60 mm mortars, 75 mm projectiles, anti-tank mines, 5 inch rockets, rifle grenades and, recently, a 500 pound bomb. The surface clearance of munitions will remove hazards associated with potential munitions, explosives and munitions debris. 

"Currently these areas (with possible munitions or explosives) are off limits to all personnel," Sergeant Vargas said. "By eliminating and removing the hazards, these areas may be able to be used in the future." 

For more information on the unexploded ordnance removal program, call the 30th SW weapons safety office at 606-1079, 606-8871 or 605-2127.