Master Sgt. Manuel Herrera, a 466th Operating Location Delta Explosives Ordinance Disposal team lead, fires an Mk 14 enhanced battle rifle while at a firing range at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Dec. 28. After identifying the need for a more capable rifle while outside the wire, Delta upgraded its dismount teams with the EBR, enhancing their ability to retaliate to long-distance hostile fire. (Tech. Sgt. Swift Moon / Air Force)
Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians are taking a new gun with them outside the wire in Afghanistan.
Airmen with the 466th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, Operating Location Delta, operating in Helmand province, last month began carrying the Mk14 enhanced battle rifles with larger 7.62-millimeter rounds than the normal M4's 5.56-millimeter round. The new rifles were necessary because the M4 carbines were not accurate enough to reach insurgents firing from a distance, according to an Air Force release.
“It's simple math — the enemy was engaging us at distances from which we couldn't effectively return fire,” said Capt. Brandon Goebel, the 466th executive officer, in the release.
The airmen were able to acquire four of the Mk14 EBRs on loan from Navy EOD Mobile Unit 11, a deployed group of sailors who have faced similar threats while they waited for their versions to arrive. They received training from an Air Force instructor and carry one of the rifles with each dismount team.
“Within one week of receiving the rifles, we had them out with the teams,” said Goebel, who added one team “was engaged at distance” and returned “effective” fire that ended the exchange.
Carrying the new weapon is important for safety in the open terrain of Helmand province where the airmen face a heightened risk of fire from further distances, Delta EOD Master Sgt. Manuel Herrera, the team leader, said in the release.
“We keep referring back to how we've evolved as an EOD team on the battlefield and one thing we don't want to become is a liability,” he said. “We don't want to always have someone protecting us, and with this weapon we have been able to ensure that.”