Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians recently spent two days clearing a path to a historic building that just about anyone who has passed through Fort Sill, Oklahoma will recognize – the blockhouse that sits atop Signal Mountain.
“We had every EOD tech in the company out for this one, which is currently 15, including platoon and company leadership,” said Capt. Matthew J. Piranian, commander of the 761st EOD Company which conducted the operation. “There were about 145 unexploded rounds on the path – old 75mm rounds, 105mm rounds, 155mm rounds, 8-inch artillery rounds and even mortars.”
To clear the path, EOD technicians first hiked the mountain, placing 3,000 feet of detonation cord along the most feasible route to the blockhouse. After finding and marking the hundreds of pieces of unexploded ordnance, they attached C-4 to the rounds and tied the charges to the main detonation cord.
On day two 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, home to the “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 10th Cavalry Regiment. It was constructed for use as an observation point and as a weather and signalling station.
One story in the book “Carbine in Lance,” by Col. W.S. Nye, relates a visit to the post by Gen. William Tecumsah Sherman. Soldiers on duty at the blockhouse were ordered to keep lookout for the general’s arrival and signal the main post, allowing them time to prepare the base for inspection. Some things certainly do remain eternal in the Army.
In the decades since, the blockhouse’s prominent location has made it a useful tool as a reference point when firing artillery.
“Just about every artilleryman in the Army uses the Block House as a reference point during their training at Fort Sill,” said Piranian.
The route clearance was conducted in anticipation of a visit to the blockhouse by 40 senior leaders from the U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence. Once again, some things certainly do remain eternal in the Army.