Biggest Explosion on JBLM in over a Decade

By Spc. Austin Steinborn

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.— U.S. Soldiers, assigned to ‘Badger’ Company, 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, recently conducted heavy demolition training in which the largest explosion on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, in over a decade was detonated Sept. 11-13, 2023.

The explosion, involving 286 pounds of explosives from cratering charges, was made possible due to discovering that JBLM should actually be authorized a net explosive weight of 320 pounds rather than the long held 20-pound installation restriction. The net explosive weight restriction refers to the maximum amount of explosive material that can be detonated at once.

“It really inhibited our ability to train for large-scale ground combat operations,” explains Capt. Adam Martin, 'Badger' Company Commander. “As leaders, we build lethal, cohesive teams through training to the standard.”


When Martin took command in March 2023, he had goals of conducting training with explosives such as Bangalore torpedoes, shape charges, cratering charges, and timber cutting with C4. At the time, Martin was told he would not get authorized to conduct those specific trainings because they would often require going over the 20-pound weight restriction.

With the desire to develop the critical capabilities and readiness of his company, Martin spearheaded the problem by reaching out to range operations and working with them to see the possibilities of lifting long held restrictions. The result was authorization to go above the 20-pound restriction. Since this approval, Badger company has conducted both timber cutting with C4 and heavy demolitions.

“The leadership over there is very training-focused and wanted to help lift barriers in order for us to train to standard,” says Martin. “If you look at the range safety publication, which lays out the installation range complex, it looks at all the factors at play and says JBLM is actually authorized a net explosive weight of up to 320 pounds.”

Having successfully completed the heavy demolition training with up to 286 pounds of explosives detonated at once, ‘Badger’ Company is now leading the way for all combat engineers on JBLM to train to standard.

“What we're currently doing is packaging our entire plan,” says Martin. “We're putting together everything we did to make the training successful and giving it to range operations who are going to update their standard operating procedures across the installation.”


The overall training consisted of confidence charges, demolition area clearance, urban breaching, bangalore shots on concertina wire obstacles, shape charges, and cratering charges. Of significance were both the Bangalore torpedoes and the shape and cratering charges, which before now required going to outside resources, such as Yakima Training Center, due to the 20-pound weight restriction. This required more planning, time, and taxpayer money instead of being able to train directly here on JBLM.

The strategic purpose of the cratering charges, which were used to create the explosion, is to ultimately create a large crater in the ground (12 to 15 feet deep by 20 to 30 feet wide) that makes it very difficult for an enemy to pass and can even render airfields unusable.

“Engineers never get easy missions and we are expected to always come up with solutions to complex problems,” says Martin. “The emphasis here is that we are multifaceted and now we can better support the brigade commander and our infantry counterparts.”

(U.S. Army photos by Spc. Austin Steinborn) 
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