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Dummy weapon closes part of city
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Students and employees in Bryan County Elementary School were briefly evacuated Monday after an inactive military training weapon was found nearby.
A Claxton Oil Co. employee saw a dummy tank round leaning against a fence in the backyard of a house next to the school on Ash Branch Church Road in Pembroke around noon Monday, said Pembroke Police Chief Mark Crowe.
The dummy round, which is about 8 to 10 inches around and 2.5 to 3 feet tall, is used only for training purposes and is not dangerous or explosive, he said, and no injuries were reported.
Thinking it could be an active weapon, the gas company employee drove to the Pembroke Fire Department to report the sighting, and firefighters called the police department, Crowe said.
The police department then notified the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit at Fort Stewart around 12:30 p.m., and officials there asked Pembroke police to take a picture of the round, said Kevin Larson, the chief of public communications at Fort Stewart.
Crowe said a police officer took the picture on a cell phone, and once EOD officers received the picture, they determined it was tank round, or ammunition a tank shoots, and told police to clear the area. EOD arrived at the home at 1:35 p.m., and around 2 p.m. concluded that the weapon was a dummy round, Larson said.
“There was nothing explosive about the object,” he said.
School children and employees were evacuated for about 35 minutes, according to John Oliver, the superintendent of Bryan County Schools. Everyone was moved to the parking lot on the north side of the school, so the building was in between evacuees and the house. Ash Branch Church Road was closed for about an hour, Crowe said.  
The house where the dummy tank round was found is occupied, but no one was home at the time of the incident, Crowe said. He did not know who lived there.
It’s not clear why or how the dummy round ended up in a residential backyard. The device is not available to the general public, and it could have been taken from Fort Stewart or another military base, officials said.
“No one should have that,” Crowe said of the dummy round. “It’s not something you can buy at the surplus store.”
Larson also said Fort Stewart officials had “no clue” how the dummy tank round ended up in the residential backyard. He agreed that it had to come from a military base, but didn’t know if it came from Fort Stewart.
BCES children were told they were participating in a law enforcement drill, similar to the fire and other emergency drills schools practice, to help keep them from getting anxious, Oliver said.
“Our kids did very well,” he said.
The gas company employee did the right thing by notifying authorities about the dummy round, Larson said. Fort Stewart officials stress that if a person finds something that could be a weapon, he or she should call the police or fire department, and the EOD Unit will respond.
“That’s part of what we do here,” he said.  
Pembroke officials have dealt with military ordnance, such as ammunition or weapons, before since the city is so close to Fort Stewart, Crowe said. Hunters and other people find shells or hand grenades in the woods near the firing range and take them, even though they are supposed to leave those items alone.
“But a lot of people can’t do that,” Crowe said. “They have to pick it up and bring it home with them.”
The last incident was a few years ago, Crowe added.
Pembroke Fire Department, Bryan County Fire Department and the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office also responded to Monday’s incident, Crowe said.
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