The U.S. Military uses explosives to annihilate the enemy before the enemy annihilates them. They bury landmines, toss grenades that can rip through armor, and launch rockets and mortars. Soldiers are entrenched in a world that goes boom. When not blowing stuff up in the heat of battle, they’re doing so during field training exercises, and this raises a serious issue. With so many explosive devices being regularly detonated, it’s nearly impossible to keep an accurate inventory account. If a soldier claims to have tossed a grenade during an exercise, they’re taken at their word whether they actually pulled the pin or not.
A Marine Corp demolition specialist stationed at Camp LeJeune was convinced that a civil war was going to break out following the presidential election. Protecting his family was his only concern so, bit by bit, he began stealing C4 plastic explosives from the camp. By the time investigators caught up with the guy, he had 13 pounds of the stuff sitting in his garage.
One pound of C4 can demolish a single-family house, leave nothing remaining of a vehicle, and destroy bridges and railroad tracks. Thirteen pounds would clear a mile-long path.
In his seven-page written confession, the sergeant said, “The riots, talk about seizing guns, I saw this country moving towards a scary unknown future. I had one thing on my mind and one thing only, I am protecting my family and my constitutional rights.”
The guilty sergeant isn’t the lone ranger by any means. Over the past decade, America’s collective military branches have lost track of thousands of hand-grenades and hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives. If this doesn’t paint a frightening enough picture, the military can’t even count how many land mines and rockets have been misappropriated.
Residents in the North Carolina coastal area located just outside of Camp LeJeune’s main gate got quite the scare in 2018 when some high school kids were caught in possession of stolen military explosives. This caused investigators to take a closer look at the camp’s inventory files and how various explosives were being maintained and accounted for.
What they found was horrifying. Investigators found stacks of falsified records used to cover up thefts as well as dump truck loads of explosives that were missing but never reported. In some cases, they found where no security measures were in place to safeguard explosives. They were there for the taking like a Halloween bowl of candy on a front porch. “Please, just take one.”
Here’s part two of the problem. It’s called disposal. When the military chooses to destroy an explosive, they place it inside of a giant hole in the ground, stand back, and let her rip. They have troops specifically trained to accomplish this. The question is, if this is the standard operating procedure, how did a live rocket end up in a civilian recycling yard?
Either Camp Lejuene is tossing unused explosives in the trash or whoever stole it got nervous and it went unnoticed in a dumpster. Either way, the rocket ended up at the scrapyard where a worker was chewing on a plug, drinking a cold drink, and enjoying his break when the thing exploded. The man died on the spot.
A couple of days later, another live howitzer was discovered at the same scrapyard, only this one didn’t come from Camp Lejeune. It’s believed to have traveled 40 miles from Camp Shelby, an Army National Guard post.
Stolen military explosives can turn up anywhere. They’ve been found laying alongside roads, inside barracks, in garages and attics, in rented storage units, and one time they even turned up at a US/Mexico border checkpoint. Authorities say the majority of the explosives recovered were inside jobs. They were stolen for either personal use or to be sold on the black market.
When approached about the enormous number of explosives walking off of military bases, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Uriah Orland said, “We want to get the number to zero, so there is no loss, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t take [sic] seriously losses that happened.”
Was that an answer or a tap dance? Wanting to get the number of explosives being stolen down to zero isn’t the same thing as doing it, so don’t expect any action to be taken any time soon. The Lt. Col. clearly appears unconcerned.
And not that we need say this, but if while on your way to a fun-filled day at Wally World you should happen to notice a mortar shell laying in the embankment, for goodness sakes, keep driving and say hi to the moose for us.