Home > War Journalism > EOD and the Sixteen Thousand Pound Layer Cake

EOD and the Sixteen Thousand Pound Layer Cake

NOTE: All people, road names, and outpost names have been changes for operational security reasons and to protect those involved.

By Joseph Kassabian

Kandahar, Afghanistan. Our convoy rumbled down the dusty, broken afghan road like any other day, we pulled into a nearby FOB to pick up Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) personnel, everyone was pretty excited because when EOD goes out something, somewhere, gets blown up, and we get to watch it under the guise of providing ‘security’. The day started out weird enough as I was suppose to link up with the EOD soldiers and tell them where their truck would go in our convoy, but when I opened the door I was met with the confusing stares of soldiers from Slovakia, who knew about thirty words of English between them, though I noticed the large ‘EOD’ patches on their shoulders and assumed they were who we were looking for. I pointed where in our convoy they were suppose to go, they gave me a thumbs up and I walked off back to my truck hoping for the best. Thank you very much NATO.

Thankfully after a few minutes American EOD showed up with their armored truck and a flatbed, which they said was for explosives. The entire goddamn flatbed. After picking them up we were to go to the Provincial Headquarters of the Afghan National Police (ANP) to pick up the munitions’ that were to be destroyed. It was supposed to be a simple day, and then we saw just how much explosives there were.

A pile, of somewhere near one hundred and fifty, fifty pound bags of ammonium nitrite, a chemical used by the Taliban to make Homemade Explosives (HME), several rockets, bags of already made HME, landmines, plastic explosives, and recoilless rifle rounds was laid out by EOD soldiers, soon we loaded everything, unstable explosives included, in the back of the flatbed truck and strapped it down. The EOD guys posed with the explosives and took pictures, the EOD platoon sergeant came up to Two, Alpha, and I to give details to where we were going to go and blow all this. “This is from a twenty-six day period, all in the city.” The senior EOD guy said, he saw a few of us eyeing the pile of explosives in the back of the flatbed. “It wasn’t even a bad month” he laughed.

Our convoy started back down the crowded streets of Kandahar City, our Platoon Sergeant laughed, explaining a week before he got yelled at by our Operations Cell for transporting ammunition through the city, alas we get attacked and create an explosion that would level a city block. Yet here we were driving a truck full of enough explosives to kill god, with full clearance of our Task Force. If we were ambushed at this point Kandahar City would have looked like Hiroshima Circa 1945.

Our convoy crossed into a gated afghan community, or what was supposed to be one. Heavily guarded by police, well constructed, clean roads, dotted with traffic lines (any sort of traffic control in Afghanistan is rare to nonexistent), sidewalks that were being used by old haggard afghan farmers rather than just walking in the middle of the road. It looked like if you built all the groundwork for a middle class American suburb, but then stopped right before you started on the houses, then dropped it in the middle of the third world. It had ‘American contractor money’ written all over it. We were coming here to blow up everything we had in the truck, I guess just to remind the rich Afghans that were going to move in that they were in fact, still in Afghanistan.

We pulled off the road and into a place that looked like it had been totally abandoned by humanity, it was obviously a place where EOD had blown up plenty of stuff before, twisted metal shrapnel and broken rocks littered the area. Dust and sand choked all of us as we tried to unload the flatbed, it was like building a bomb piece by piece in the middle of a sand storm. We struggled to offload the bags of nitrite in the wind, the bags leaked white powered over all of us as we piled them up, EOD laid out the rest of the explosives. Then they started to build what EOD described as a ‘Layer Cake’ of explosives.

The bottom of the cake was the rockets, landmines, ect, laid out neatly in rows, then on top of that we laid out a layer of nitrite bags, very carefully, then EOD put down block after block of C4, a high explosive, by the end of the first layer there was more C4 than anything else, then C4 was all strung together with detonation cord, another high explosive, we then laid out another layer of nitrite bags. Another few layers were put together like the first, and then EOD broke out something they called ‘data sheets’ yet another high explosive, it looked like ‘Fruit by the Foot’, but made out of military grade explosives, they pulled out two whole rolls of it over the top in a grid-like pattern. To top off their high explosive cake came the sprinkles, otherwise known as blocks of TNT. Three whole cases of TNT were strung together with even more detonation cord, fuses were finally put in and the cake was finished.

“It’s about sixteen thousand pounds of shit.” Mused an EOD officer “give it take a few thousand” One of our soldiers asked him how far away we should be from the explosion when it goes off “Probably about one thousand meters, but we’ll be roughly half of that.” The officer smiled “we just spent three hours putting this all together; I want to see this shit explode” the EOD soldiers then started rolling out the wire that would allow them to set it off, around five-hundred meters worth, all the way to where we would park our trucks and watch. About ten minutes later we saw the biggest explosion I’ve ever seen in my life.

Everyone crowded inside the safety of our armored trucks and waited for the upcoming event. Peering through our small ballistic windows, we watched the dusty expanse where somewhere out of eye sight our giant cake of explosives was wired to go at any moment. “Fire in the hole!” EOD screamed over the radio, seconds later the biggest explosion I’ve ever seen tore through the sky. A mushroom cloud shot up hundreds of feet into the air, covering the entire valley with dirt, shrapnel, and dust. A shockwave ripped across the earth and slammed into our trucks that were parked about five hundred meters away, they all rocked on their axels. Soldiers cheered in the cramped confines of their trucks, and we rolled back down to the bomb site to check out the crater. The massive bomb turned the valley floor into something resembling what you’d see on a distant planet, with light dust covering everything; each step sent it into the air scratching at our eyes, and clogging our lungs.

After a few more pictures we got back in our trucks and rolled out, leaving massive destruction in our wake, but somehow made Kandahar a safer place in the process. While it was only less than a month of gathered explosives from the surrounding city, we still managed to deny the enemy several thousand pounds of explosives they could have created hundreds of bombs with and used on soldiers on patrol. This was just a drop in the bucket that is weapons in Kandahar, and EOD carries out these operations on nearly a daily basis all over the country, many bigger than the one we went on. Thankfully whenever we need them, EOD is always on call, ready to come out to where we are and solve our problems with high grade explosives.

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