The US military has a problem with missing explosives


A new report details how at least hundreds of pounds of U.S. military explosives and other ammunition, including C4 bricks, artillery shells, grenades, and rockets, as well as ancillary items like detonators and detonating cords, have been stolen, lost or otherwise gone missing for the last decade or so. Authorities have minimized these losses, but the problems inherent in tracking explosives stocks combined with uneven record keeping can only raise questions about the accuracy of this accounting and the effectiveness of existing security procedures.

The Associated press
today released the results of an investigation it conducted into missing explosives in all branches of the US military except the US Space Force between 2010 and 2020. Space Force n ‘was officially established as a separate branch within the ministry. Air Force in December 2019. This new story, which is worth reading in its entirety, follows a report from PA
published earlier this year about the theft and other losses of firearms and other weapons throughout the U.S. military during the same period.


A US Marine prepares blocks of TNT explosives during a training exercise at Fort AP Hill, Virginia.

The military provided data to the PA in the form of a table listing nearly 1,900 separate cases of lost explosives, 1,066 involved C4 or TNT. “Other categories included artillery, mortars, landmines, grenades, rockets and armor-piercing 40mm grenades fired from a launcher,” according to the report.

“In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Marine Corps released data that was too fuzzy to calculate an accurate count,” the article added. “PARough analysis showed that thousands of armor-piercing grenades and hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives have been reported as lost or stolen. “

Air Force data indicated that the service had lost track of approximately 50 pounds of C4, as well as 800 feet of detonating cord and “several” 40mm grenades. The Navy responded to the PArequests for information from the service specifying that the service had only stolen 20 hand grenades between 2010 and 2020.

At first glance, these losses seem negligible, and significant amounts of what is known to have been lost were eventually recovered. The military “maintained appropriate responsibility for 99.999984% ammunition,” said Lt. Col. Brandon Kelley, a spokesperson for the service. PA, adding that about half of the items reported as missing between 2010 and 2020 had been recovered.

“The Air Force is doing very well when it comes to responsibility for explosives,” Sarah Fiocco, another spokesperson, said in a separate statement when asked about losses from the service. The Navy said all but two of his missing grenades were found.

At the same time, the PA The investigation found that the very nature of how the U.S. military stores and distributes explosives, particularly for training and other non-combat uses, such as unexploded ordnance disposal, presents major record keeping challenges.

“As troops check guns in and out of armories, explosives are distributed from ammunition supply points with the suspicion that they will detonate,” the report said. “Although at least two people are supposed to sign the consumption reports, it is an honor system. If the explosives are not used and go missing, only the thief can find out.”


The Marines work with TNT blocks during training.

In response to the PA, the Marine Corps said “stray” explosives are often determined to actually be the result of discrepancies in inventory data which are in turn “attributed to human error, such as counting errors or documentation. incorrect “. The data provided by the military was “a careful manual examination of the records” and “even with this examination, the researchers could not always determine the quantities, so for example it was not possible to know exactly how many pounds of C4 / TNT were represented in the 1,066 entries, “according to the story.

When presented with documents showing the Navy had lost track of 24 more grenades than they said, the spokesperson for the service said the information was “beyond 2-year local records retention requirement ”and were unknown to them. All of this only raises more questions about the reliability of the information available.

The obvious concern is that stolen or lost explosives and other ammunition could end up being used for malicious purposes by terrorists or criminals. However, PAS investigation strongly suggests that stealing these items comes across as something so easy to do and get away with that people will for almost any reason.

One person said they stole C4 out of fear that the United States would fall into a failed state if Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and out of a desire to protect her family. Another person took five feet of Deta Sheet, a brand of relatively thin plastic explosive that comes in rolls, with rockets, detonators and even parts of landmines “for fun, maybe blasting stumps. of trees “. In 2016, federal authorities refused to prosecute a retired naval lieutenant colonel who was in possession of C4s, detonators and a detonating cord “citing the limitation period and the apparent lack of criminal intent” .


US Air Force members prepare Deta Sheet explosives for a test.

The difficulty of ensuring that ammunition and other explosives intended to be used actually explode creates other problems. The PA reported that there have been at least two cases in Mississippi that appear to involve enterprising individuals scouring military training fields in search of junk for sale and ending up with dangerous unexploded ordnance.

In August, an artillery shell exploded at a recycling yard in that state, killing a worker. Subsequently, another cartridge was discovered on the same site. Local law enforcement suggests they may have come from a nearby Mississippi Army National Guard facility Camp Shelby, but officials told the PA that there is no clear evidence of this.

In 2012, a man was injured at his home in Gulfport, Mississippi, after attempting to smash an unexploded cartridge that had been fired from an AT4 anti-tank weapon fired in the shoulder. Authorities later said he recovered 51 of the projectiles from an area associated with Camp Shelby.


Personnel assigned to the US-led task force fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria prepare to destroy AT4 launchers using C4 explosives.

All of this is fueling fears that these explosives will ultimately end up in the wrong hands, especially through secondary and tertiary theft. Authorities only discovered the existence of the person who just wanted to “have fun”, Navy Sgt Alex Krasovec, after investigating teenagers who robbed an abandoned house. Krasovec had hidden a backpack there containing the items he had stolen. That investigation led the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) to Sergeant Travis Glosser, the Marine who feared imminent societal collapse. Krasovec and Glosser were both demolition trainers at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In the absence of this break-in, there is no indication that anyone would have been aware of these thefts.

“Both Krasovec and Glosser pleaded guilty to theft of military property. Each was sentenced to less than two years’ imprisonment in a military prison, and both were overthrown,” according to the PA. “Krasovec was kicked out of the service with a misconduct discharge; Glosser is appealing his case.”

It remains to be seen what the U.S. military as a whole can do in the future to help improve basic accounting for its stockpiles of explosives and miscellaneous ammunition and work towards further reducing thefts and the like. types of losses. Members of Congress lobbied to include provisions in the annual Defense Policy Bill, or National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), for fiscal year 2022 that would require the entire Department of Defense to pass new and improved policies for tracking weapons and explosives. artillery.

What is the PA has already discovered certainly indicates the need for better accounting to fully understand the gravity of the situation.

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