View Full Version : Engineers blast Alaska

09-26-03, 06:12 AM
Engineers blast Alaska
Submitted by: MCAS Iwakuni
Story Identification Number: 200392420363
Story by Cpl. Dave Boni

CAMP WY WUH ANNETTE ISLAND, Alaska(Sept. 8, 2003) -- For combat engineers with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 currently deployed to Operation Alaskan Road, no road project would be complete if demolition was not involved.

Their blasting dreams came true as small teams of demolition crews got to try their hand at something none of them have ever done before Sept. 8.

"The demolition is used to break up large mounds of rock, and then those broken pieces are spread to different sites of the project to further construction of the road," said Cpl. Austin Puetz, MWSS-171, combat engineer. "The demolition is really important because this is the rock the excavator can't break up, and it's the only way to get it out of the way."

After receiving close guidance from civilian contractors and Seabees also participating in the road project, the Marines were on their way to performing the important, but tedious task.

First on the demolition checklist is to drill holes ranging anywhere from eight to 45 feet straight down into the rock. Next a shock tube with a blasting cap is put into a booster, which is a three quarter pound of TNT, and then all three are dumped into the hole. According to Puetz, a Martelle, Iowa, native, the shock tube, blasting cap and booster all act as the explosives. Once the hole is prepped and ready, a thick liquid form called emulsion is poured down and fills the hole to the top.

"Emulsion is ammonium-nitrate based and is what causes the actual explosion," said Lance Cpl. Alan Balster, ?171 combat engineer. "After the emulsion is poured, we do what"s called 'stemming' and we pour dirt over top so the explosion blows out instead of inward."

When the stemming is complete the Marines connect all the wires to the various holes and then run shock tube to a safe distance and prepare to watch the show.

"Once we were at a safe distance we use a 22-cap to ignite the shock tube and then bam! The rock explodes," said Balster, a Dublin, Calif., native.

For the Sept. 8 blast, 15,000 pounds of explosives were used to get the job done.
"It was a great learning experience," said Pfc. Mike Collura, MWSS-171, combat engineer. "The other services taught us everything, and the more we worked together the less it mattered that we wore different uniforms."

For Puetz and Balster, the mere pleasure of working with the newer versions of demolitions made the training worthwhile.

"We are used to using explosives from the '40s so it was nice to see what the new civilian stuff could do. I want to have a career with this kind of demolitions when I am out of the Marines, so it was an even greater experience for me to learn all about it," said Puetz.

Despite the new skills learned and the enjoyment that went along with it, the Marines know their work is far more than just training.

"I look forward to one day coming back here and driving on the road I helped build. We all know what this road means for the local community, and we are just happy to take part in it," said Balster.


Lance Cpl. Allen Balster, MWSS-171, combat engineer, moves rocks out of the way to fill a hole before a TNT blast Sept. 8, during Operation Alaskan Road.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. John Cosentino