a drone photo of docks on the bay.
File Photo: Docks just off the Choctawhatchee Bay. Eglin discovered three unexploded bombs in the area and has operations underway to destroy them.

Eglin AFB Talks World War Two Bomb Removal From Local Bayou

Lt. Col. Chad Hogue, from the 96th Wing Civil Engineering Squadron, explains the mission to render safe World War II bombs found in Choctawhatchee Bay.

Okaloosa County residents near Garnier’s Bayou – and those working on base may catch a glimpse of the detonation of three World War II-era bombs in the waters of the Choctawhatchee Bay, in between Fort Walton Beach, Ocean City and Shalimar, on Valentine’s Day. 

The clear, rainless skies above Northwest Florida meant the operation will likely go ahead as planned. 

The bombs were found on January 15th and announced to the public on February 12th. They were found between Shalimar, Ocean City and Fort Walton Beach in the bayou. 

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The Air Force Officer in charge of the explosive ordnance disposal is civil engineering chief, Lieutenant Colonel Chad Hogue. Hogue is also the Emergency Operations Commander for Eglin Air Force Base. He gave a press conference at the beginning of the mobile mission to explain what’s happening, who it affects, and whether or not there’s still more ordnance in Choctawhatchee Bay.

According to the “Bombs in Your Backyard” series by Pro Publica – the US Government has spent more than $126 Million on the cleanup of munitions in the Eglin Air Force Base area – and will need to devote another $37.9 Million to evaluate and clean up other sites like the Bay Legacy Range. Pro Publica says the Choctawhatchee Bay will be cleaned up by 2045. 

Hogue explained that Air Force Contractors found the bombs and have worked primarily with the Army Corps of Engineers to find more unexploded ordnance.

Q and A

Media from around the area came to the conference and asked the following questions. Lieutenant Colonel Hogue answered for the Air Force. We got about 10 minutes with the Lieutenant Colonel before he returned to the operation at hand. 

What Affects Would Take Place With These Bombs In Brackish Water For 80+ Years?

“First, just want to highlight that with our professional partnership with multiple stakeholders, we have conducted extensive planning for today’s operations. And one factor we did take into consideration is the duration that these unexploded ordnance items have been in their current condition. However, when we plan operations, we always take in worst-case scenarios as we less planned that these items are still viable. So that is why Navy EOD is going to be performing their operations per their response plans to safely dispose of these unexploded ordnance items.”

Where else are you all looking for Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)?

“So, there is an Air Force-funded contract being led by the US Army Corps of Engineers. They have contract divers that are out surveying specific areas of the bay that are historically known to be a part of the legacy bay range and in the process of their remediation work. They have discovered these unexploded ordnance items. And these are the focus of today’s response.”

What Should People Expect To See During Detonation?

“We have to take into consideration that these items may still be viable. So if the unexploded ordnance items are still viable, you can expect to see a water plume coming out. above the water surface, of course. However, if they are no longer viable due to their condition, there won’t be much.”

What’s The Importance Of This Mission?

“We have an obligation to help remediate explosive hazards. The importance of today is, of course ensure public safety and the safety of the responders as well as personal property or property in the environment. So the importance of today’s operation is safe disposal of the unexploded ordnance items.”

What is it like to be on a mission with World War II Ordnance?

“It’s certainly humbling to appreciate the historical perspective where these unexploded ordnance items came from, being that they are World War Two era unexploded ordnance items. And our focus for today is just to make sure we have the safe disposal of these items. And that way we can ensure public safety and the protection of property.”

 

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