Artillery types

Army EOD soldiers detonated hundreds of artillery shells at Fort Sill

Call this one another type of police call.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians recently passed two days clearing a path to a historic building that almost anyone who has passed through Fort Sill, Oklahoma, will recognize – the blockhouse that sits atop Signal Mountain.

“We had all the company EOD techs for this one, which is currently 15, including platoon and company leaders,” said Capt. Matthew J. Piranian, 761st EOD Company commander who conducted the operation. “There were about 145 unexploded shells on the way – old 75mm shells, 105mm shells, 155mm shells, 8 inch artillery shells and even mortars.”

To clear the way, EOD techs first walked up the mountain, placing 3,000 feet of detonating cord along the most passable route to the blockhouse. After finding and marking the hundreds of pieces of unexploded ordnance, they attached C-4 to the cartridges and attached the charges to the main detonation cord.

On the second day came the main event – a 3,000 foot long explosion clearing the way up the mountain.

The blockhouse was built around 1870, when Fort Sill was a frontier outpost, housing the “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 10th Cavalry Regiment. It was built for use as an observation point and as a weather and signaling station.

A story in the book “Carbine in Lance”, by Colonel WS Nye, recounts a visit to the post by General William Tecumsah Sherman. The soldiers on duty at the blockhouse were ordered to watch for the general’s arrival and report the main post, allowing them time to prepare the base for the inspection. Certain things certainly remain eternal in the army.

In the decades that followed, the blockhouse’s prime location made it a useful tool as a reference point during artillery fire.

“Almost all Army gunners use the Block House as a reference point when training at Fort Sill,” Piranian said.

Route clearance was done in anticipation of a visit to the blockhouse by 40 senior leaders from the U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence. Again, some things certainly stay forever in the military.

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