Disaster Averted After Teens Bring Training Grenades To Jr. High

(September 14)  Catastrophe was averted this and last week after a Fort Irwin Middle School student came across five grenade simulators and then, with two of his older friends who were students at Silver Valley High School, took four of the devices to the middle school campus, where they left them after unsuccessful attempts to detonate them.
On September 3, a first unexploded training grenade had been found off campus in the wash area of Sandy Basin. On September 5, another grenade – identical to those used in training exercises by soldiers at the National Training Center – was found on the roof of the middle school by a maintenance worker repairing that facility’s air conditioning system. School administrators immediately put the campus on lockdown. A search of the campus turned up two further grenade simulators on Thursday, September 6. The entire area around where the devices were found was cordoned off and explosive ordnance disposal soldiers disarmed and removed them. Bomb sniffing dogs from the Marine Corps Logistics Base were utilized to search for additional grenades. None were immediately found, but on Monday, September 10, another simulator turned up on the campus.
A team of military police took up the case on September 5, eventually determining that the five devices had been in the possession of three teenagers  –  two high school students and a junior high school student, all males. The junior high school student had found them at his home in a handbag. The three then took the grenades to the junior high campus after school hours, where they attempted to activate them by pulling out the ignition pins, but were unable to do so. One of the grenades was lobbed onto the roof of the school.
The devices do not possess the fragmentation capability of combat grenades, but nevertheless are powerful enough to kill or maim. Each possesses roughly two grams of explosives, enough to blow off the hand and part of the arm of someone holding it, blind or deafen someone if it explodes proximate to one’s face, or kill an individual if the device detonates too close to the head or thorax.
Marc Jackson, superintendent of Silver Valley Unified School District, told the Sentinel, “The military police have determined that they were brought to our campus by two high school students and one student at the junior high. They all participated in taking the simulators. They tried to pull out the pins but didn’t have the strength. They threw them over the fences. After the first one was found, the principal called security and the fire department. One of the firefighters took a look at it and immediately said we needed to call the bomb squad, the military’s explosive ordnance disposal team.  The bomb squad came in and we swept the campus and went through our process and procedures in an expeditious manner. We moved the students away from where the devices were found.  The team did its work. We are confident all of the devices were found and we are coming to the end of this chapter.”
Jackson said of the three students responsible for the grenades being brought to the school, “They have been suspended, pending a pre-expulsion hearing. They were picked up and cited with that section of the penal code relating to being in the possession of explosives. They were taken to the Ft. Irwin Police Department today [September 12] and released to their parents this afternoon.”
The superintendent said the three young men “will be held accountable. I think it prudent to say we intend to enforce the consequences of their actions. I believe even good students do stupid things. This was not an intentional criminal act. We don’t think it was their intention to hurt anyone, but they were explosive devices. They were not firecrackers. They are extremely dangerous and we are going to enforce the education code.”
Jackson said, “I was really impressed with how quickly and expeditiously we moved in response to this. It was very well coordinated, with the school, the fire department, the bomb squad, and the military police. Coming when this did, there was concern this might be a terrorist act because of 9-11. We worked with the parents to give them information and keep communication at the forefront. They were legitimately very afraid about what seemed to be happening. I am very pleased with the support we received from [Ft. Irwin garrison commander] Colonel [Kurt] Pinkerton.”
It appears that the student that obtained the grenades did so as a consequence of having a family member stationed at Ft. Irwin, as was stated on the post’s website.  Nevertheless, Jackson said it was fortunate that there were military resources to assist in stabilizing the situation.
“We reacted in full partnership with the installation,” Jackson said. “Having them there was beneficial.”
Despite the trauma, he said there was a silver lining. “I do believe this will make us better responders when these type of things happen again,” he said.

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