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Engineers blow up 32-year-old tower they built
tower explosion
Before and during: The range tower at Red Cloud Bravo on Fort Stewart goes up in a flash Thursday afternoon. - photo by Photo by Randy C. Murray

Soldiers with the 92ndEngineer Battalion Thursday destroyed a range tower that was built by that unit 32 years ago.

According to Capt. William Watts, commander of 530 Engineer Co., the 20-foot, concrete tower at Red Cloud Bravo was slated by Fort Stewart’s Range Control to be demolished because the range is no longer used for 50 caliber and MK-19 weapon practice. The engineers decided to use the demolition as training, he said.

“I want to thank Range Control for giving us the opportunity to tear down this tower,” Watts said. “The 92ndEngineers built this tower in 1982. Now we have the privilege of tearing it down. It’s a pretty awesome thing.”

The two-day training operation included missions for each platoon. On Thursday, 1stplatoon soldiers attacked the tower, which was defended by soldiers from 3rdplatoon, he said.

Watts said they used paint ball guns during the simulated assault. After attack, the tower was prepared for demolition.

Sgt. Brett Burnside, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the demolition, talked about how he calculated the amount and placement of explosives to bring down the tower.

He said 76 pounds of explosive were used.

Range Safety Officer Bobby Lightner said the tower was originally used to observe 50 caliber and MK-19 firing from HMMVs.

“The range has since transitioned to be a tank calibration range,” Lightner said. “They conduct live-fire accuracy screening tests… This tower is unable to be used now. It’s just kind of in the way.”

Lightner said the tower will not be replaced. He said there could be as many as 12 tanks on the range at one time. Pointing out a hole in one of tower's walls, he said it was caused by a tank gun tube.

He called the demolition exercise a "win-win" for both Range Control and the 92ndEngineers. The engineers rarely get to blow something up unless they build it, he said.

After the briefings, soldiers and civilian media were asked to move back 200 meters from the tower as Burnside and team members set the charges and attached the detonating cord. Soldiers with Fort Stewart’s Explosive Ordinance Detachment watched. With the charges in place, a lone soldier walked backward from the tower as he unwound a roll of det cord.

When he reached the dirt road where other soldiers and vehicles were lined up, the soldier attached the detonator. Meanwhile, an officer was checking with Range Control to get approval to “go hot.” She passed that approval to Lightner, the company commander and NCOIC.

At that point, the soldier with the detonator shouted, “fire in the hole" three times. Then a flash and cloud of smoke and debris engulfed the tower.

When the smoke cleared, the tower was gone. Thousands of concrete fragments the size of coins with a few large chunks of cinder blocks covered the ground around where the tower once stood.

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