Have you ever been outside riding your bike or camping and stumbled upon something that looked suspiciously like a bomb or a dangerous object? If you did, what was your reaction? Did you want to pick it up? Well don’t do it!!! If you didn’t drop it, don’t pick it up! RECOGNIZE!! RETREAT!! REPORT!!
These were the messages the Corps’ Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) team was communicating during the El Centro, Calif., Air Show March 10.
Sonny Franks, District FUDS project manager, teamed up with Randy Tabije, a FUDS project manager from Los Angeles District, and contractors from Bristol Environmental Remediation Services, Inc., to attend the show and talk to people. And, more than 10,500 people, approximately one-fourth of the El Centro population, attended the show.
“The focus of our team is to educate individuals 25 years and younger regarding the hazards of finding unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the desert and bringing it home,” Franks said.
El Centro and the surrounding land is prime for finding UXO because during World War II the area was used as the Desert Training Center, California-Arizona Maneuver Area. There, commanded by General George Patton, more than one million U.S. forces trained and carried out military maneuvers.
This area, often referred to as Patton’s Playground, covers 18,000 square miles from approximately Pomona, Calif., east to Phoenix, Ariz. and south to Yuma, Ariz. The southern border of Nevada is rife with numerous UXO.
The booth was set up with various shapes and sizes of inert ordnance on a table right in front, and most passersby, especially children and teens who visited the booth, immediately reached out to touch the items. A FUDS representative was always there to say “Don’t touch the ordnance.” It was a clever way to reach the teens and to explain how finding ordnance can have dangerous consequences.
“It is natural to be curious and want to touch something, but these items can be fatal, and that’s why we have the ordnance display set up in this manner,” said Franks. “We want to make a point and hopefully break the desire to pick up a UXO.”
Several attendees shared stories of having come upon various types of ordnance. Some related stories of friends who picked up ordnance and brought it home, and it didn’t end well. Others shared information about where they had seen UXO. The FUDS team had a map on hand to mark these locations, so they can follow up.
The El Centro Air Show is the sixth of nine shows that the FUDS team will be attending to educate people this fiscal year.