While all branches of the US military insist only a tiny percentage of explosives are lost or stolen from their stocks, an AP investigation suggests the disappearance of grenades, C4, and even rockets, often gets overlooked.
Investigating the disappearance of more than 2,000 military firearms since 2010, the agency sought records into the missing explosives as well. According to a report published on Thursday, the US Army came back with a list of 1,900 incidents, "about half" of which it said were recovered, and said it has maintained "proper accountability of 99.999984% of munitions."
The Air Force said it had lost about 50 pounds (23 kg) of C4 explosives, more than 800 feet (244 meters) of detonating cord, and "several dozen" 40 mm armor-piercing grenades over the years in question.
The Navy said only 20 hand grenades had been stolen, and 18 of them were recovered. But, when confronted with a report of 24 more missing from a ship's armory in 2012, said that the incident was beyond the 2-year record-keeping requirement.
The army listed 1,066 incidents involving TNT or C4, but was unable to specify the quantity of the missing explosives. The rest of the entries involved artillery and mortar shells, rockets, hand and 40mm grenades, as well as landmines.
Marine Corps data was "too unclear" for a precise tally. The AP's analysis suggested "thousands" of armor-piercing grenades and hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives were either lost or stolen. USMC said "some" of it was later recovered, and the reports are "often" due to human error such as miscounting inventory or improper documentation.
In a particular case described by AP, a sergeant at Camp Lejeune had started taking leftover C4 during the summer of 2016, fearing civil war if Hillary Clinton won the presidential election. After Donald Trump's victory, he buried 10 blocks of the plastic explosive, weighing about 13 lbs in the backyard of his home.
"The riots, talk about seizing guns, I saw this country moving towards a scary unknown future," Sergeant Travis Glosser later wrote in a seven-page statement to NCIS investigators. "I had one thing on my mind and one thing only, I am protecting my family and my constitutional rights."
He was discovered by accident. Another Marine sergeant had taken a backpack full of unexploded materials home after a training exercise - and it was found by a group of local teenagers who broke into the house in 2018.
Among the other incidents reported by AP was a theft of training rockets from Fort Hood in Texas, a 2013 theft of 36 sticks of TNT from Clark Air Base in the Philippines, and a private at Quantico, Virginia stealing cans of explosives and detonators. Another explosives technician at the same base took home four fragmentation grenades by falsely logging them as having exploded during training.
In another 2018 incident, investigators found four blocks of C4 and detonation cord, as well as eight 40 mm grenades, at a Colorado home of a former Marine. He had been guarding the nuclear-powered submarines at Kings Bay in Georgia, where the items came from. Six more people pleaded guilty after an investigation found another 50 pounds (23 kg) of plastic explosives had been stolen from that base.