Be in the know on UXO’s

  • Published
  • By Robert Kaschak
  • 452 AMW Emergency Management

Identifying a UXO is a critical responsibility in a wartime environment. First, let's describe what a UXO is. Basically, it defined as unexploded explosive ordnance. This explosive ordnance which has been primed, fused, armed or otherwise prepared for action, and which has been fired, dropped, launched, projected, or placed in such a manner as to constitute a hazard to operations, installations, personnel, or material and remains unexploded either by malfunction or design or for any other cause. These items could be anywhere on the installation: partially or totally obscured, in plain view, stuck in trees, rooftops, roadsides, by buildings, etc. Recognition and awareness are crucial in detecting a UXO.  Realizing that surveying personnel are not bomb experts, using common sense and good judgement will be your best defense from injury or worse.


Identifying a UXO is not only a PAR team concern, but also should be for anyone who has a need to be out of their buildings transiting the base. UXO are hazards that pose a risk of causing injury or death. They can be conventional, chemical, biological, or any combination thereof to include missiles, bombs, rockets, mines, or other devices that range in size from very small to large. Surveying for this threat can never be minimized as UXOs affects operational and tactical planning and execution of operations for all expeditionary forces. The presence of UXO in operational environments can add considerable time to any mission. Commanders and planners always consider this danger when conducting risk assessments to ensure they have accounted for all obstacles to mission completion.


Some major concerns about the proper handling of a UXO will include the following:

    1) Once identified, move to safe area immediately

    2) Report the finding via LMR keeping in mind minimum stand off to engage the radio is 25 feet, 100 feet if using a vehicle mounted radio

    3) Prior to reporting, be prepared to give physical description to include, size, color and any distinguishing markings. Also, establish the location of the object as well

    4) Use the 5 Cs to ensure proper reporting. Keep in mind there is no particular order to accomplish the 5 C’s.

The 5 C’s are:

       * CONFIRM the presence of the suspect item. When possible, this should be done from a safe distance, with the maximum use of hard cover and spotting equipment. Never compromise safety for

         Positive identification of the item.

      * CLEAR all personnel from the area to a tactically safe distance. Detonation may be imminent. Minimum safe distance for exposed personnel is in accordance with USAF installation policy. Report the

         possible IED (improvised explosive device) or UXO to the UCC/BDOC:

     * CORDON off the danger area to all vehicle and foot traffic. Size of cordon based on communication with UCC.

     * CHECK for other UXO/secondary IEDs at C2 location and cordon posts.  Report any suspicious item(s) found, mark item per SOP, reestablish cordon at a safe distance.

     * CONTROL the area inside the cordon to ensure only authorized personnel have access (e.g., EOD, medical, firefighting). UCC will direct security at the established safe distance while maximizing cover

       from the suspect item.

   5) Understand UCC will provide direction to either "mark the area" or set up a cordon. Marking the area consists of simply dropping a marker at the location (bean bags here at March). Do not try to hit

       the UXO. The marker serves as a point of reference for EOD to find and safe the device. Setting up a cordon will involve utilizing red surveyors ribbon and stakes provided in the PAR kit. A cordon

       protects people, equipment, and classified material during major incidents. Cordons typically consist of military personnel and/or physical barriers. When available, the area may be marked with the

       applicable rope, tape, or signs. Where no toxic or explosive hazards are involved, the size of the cordon is dictated by the affected area and the area needed by disaster response force teams to conduct unhindered operations.


Information on all the aforementioned processes can be found in AFTTP 3-4 Airman's Manual. Additionally, in the back of this PDF file are some pictures of UXO categories that will assist in identifying

    UXO devices. No matter what role you play in the recovery process of the installation, maintain awareness at all times, especially regarding detection of UXOs. Keep in mind if unsure that what you are

    seeing is a UXO, err on the side of caution and go through the reporting process to protect yourself and your team. Your 1 minute of vigilance can, in fact, be a lifesaving event and facilitate the

    successful completion of the recovery process. Questions regarding UXOs may be referred to the emergency management office at 655-3024.