The Army’s explosive problem

August 9, 2014 • Editorial

[auth] Here’s the good news, or at least what passes for good news in the wake of the scandal over missing explosives at the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne): The Army has talked about an amnesty program to encourage soldiers to turn in unused munitions, as well as a search of the 7th Group compound in Florida for TNT, grenades and the like.
Here’s the bad news: The Army thinks unused munitions might be found … where? In the woods? In somebody’s home? Hidden somewhere in the 7th Group compound?
Here’s more bad news: An amnesty offer presumably means whoever turns in missing explosives won’t be punished. But why should these service members enjoy leniency when other citizens would not? As military personnel, they should know more about the proper care and disposal of munitions than most civilians do.
All of this bad news arrived courtesy of the trial of Vaughn Pottle, a 7th Group soldier who was accused of stealing and hiding almost 100 sticks of dynamite, 70 sticks of TNT, blasting caps, grenades and other dangerous stuff at his home in Baker. He said he had brought the items from Fort Bragg, N.C., and stored them at his home on orders from a superior.
The trial jury believed him. He was acquitted July 23 on all charges.
If the charges against Pottle weren’t alarming enough, try this: For more than two years, the Army didn’t even know the explosives at his home were missing.
An internal Army investigation found that sloppy procedures at the 7th Special Forces Group allowed the TNT, dynamite and grenades to simply drop out of sight, with no one the wiser. There was “a window of opportunity for someone to steal munitions,” Col. Jamal Wigglesworth wrote in a report on the investigation.
Let’s hope that window has been closed securely. And locked.
The U.S. military faces threats daily from hostile forces armed with explosives. There should be no excuse for losing track of our own weaponry or, worse, letting it fall into the hands of our enemies.

Reprinted from the Northwest Florida Daily News

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