Guam- A team of Navy divers stationed on Guam have recently returned home after recovering unarmed bombs that were dropped in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The bombs were dropped by two U.S. fighter jets during a joint military exercise with the Australian Defense Force (ADF).
LTJG Donald Hampton and EOD2 Robert Ursua are part of the Navy team of divers from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) FIVE on Naval Base Guam that were sent to retrieve unarmed bombs from the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
The two inert and two unarmed live rounds were dropped in mid-July by U.S. harrier jets after civilian boats strayed into their original target area during the military exercise with ADF.
The U.S. 7th Fleet Command states the 4 weapons were lying in more than 200 feet of water and posed little risk to the reef. The bombs were dropped in a sandy deep channel 18 miles away from the closest reef to minimize the possibility of reef damage.
As the platoon commander of Platoon 502, Hampton had a supervisory role in making sure everything was done safely.
“We were on our way back from a previous exercise, got the call and you know, it was a good experience for us because we were able to show our ability to expeditiously get our stuff back together and head right out the door,” said Hampton.
Ursua says he helped prepare the actual dive to retrieve the bombs. He mentions it’s not uncommon for their team to do something like this, especially after conducting hundreds of previous dives throughout the western pacific.
“It was definitely able to show what we’re able to do out there,” said Ursua. “We’ve been training for so long for something like that so it was a great experience.”
Both men say the depth was a challenge, but their training and support from Naval Base Guam and EOD Mobile Unit FIVE played a key part in the success of their mission.
Ursua says it took about a week to prepare for the dive, two to three days to conduct the mission and fifteen minutes to send four divers below the surface to begin the recovery of the two GBU-12 laser guided bombs. Each bomb weighed 500 pounds.
“It was a short period of time,” said Ursua. ‘It wasn’t very long since it was so deep.”
Lift balloons were used to bring the ordnance to the water surface safely and both were destroyed in an approved demolition area around the end of August. The other two 500 pound inert cement filled BDU-45 dummy bombs were left at the bottom, with the approval of the Australian Defense Force. The Navy states it poses no environmental hazard.
Ursua adds this mission is just part of their normal duties since they are the only unit in this Area of Responsibility (AOR) conducting these types of dives.
“We are trained to be the ready platoon for this AOR,” stated Ursua. “So if any response, like such, we’d respond to that.”
Overall, Hampton and Ursua say they had a great experience with their Australian allies and the Great Barrier Reef Park Authority to successfully remove and dispose of this training ordnance.
“We’re ecstatic that we had the opportunity to show this kind of capability we have, the ability to get things done on short notice safely, expeditiously and make everyone happy,” said Hampton. “So we’re ecstatic that we’re able to do that.”