U.S. Army units from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command conducted a five-month operation to remove unexploded chemical munitions from a World War I era training range.
Army civilians from CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, an all-civilian organization based on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, was the lead organization from the 20th CBRNE Command. Soldiers from the Fort Bliss, Texas-based 46th Chemical Company’s CBRNE Response Team 4 supported CARA during the operation.
Both units are part of the 20th CBRNE Command, the Department of Defense’s only deployable all hazards headquarters. Headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and based on 19 installations on 16 states, 20th CBRNE Command works with joint, interagency and allied partners to confront and defeat CBRNE threats around the world.
CARA provides a world-wide emergency response capability for Recovered Chemical Warfare Material, remediation support for combatant commanders, technical escort of chemical materials and mobile laboratories.
“One of CARA’s primary mission is to conduct and support remediation operations at locations that have been identified to have tested conventional and chemical munitions,” said CARA Director Franz J. Amann. “In order for these installations and locations to reuse their real estate, site surveys have been completed. If anomalies of unexploded munitions are identified, the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers contracts for remediation operations to be conducted.”
The Army team recovered six intact munitions, including four identified to potentially have a mustard agent or residue in them. The four rounds were separated for proper disposal to protect personnel and the environment.
“Even after 70 years, chemically filled munitions have the same affect and lethality,” said Amann.
CARA and CRT 4 provided a personnel decontamination station, packaging, air support and nonintrusive munition assessment on the former Camp Kendrick where chemical munitions were tested during World War I. The camp was later used as a U.S. Navy airfield before becoming part of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
To ensure that an adequate number of trained Soldiers were available for the entire effort, CARA team members conducted a 40-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification course for the CRT 4 members.
Amann said long-term remediation operations differ from U.S. Army CBRNE operations in a combat zone. During remediation operations, team members are often required to operate in all levels of personnel protective equipment, including prolonged operations with tethered air.
During the mission, 18 seasoned Army civilians from CARA served at the remediation site. The CARA team had over a century of CBRNE experience.
“This was a great opportunity for Soldiers to gain an appreciation of mitigation operations, applying what they have learned as a CBRN Soldier to the real world,” said Amann, a retired Army Chemical Corps officer from Spartanburg, South Carolina.
According to Kerry M. Jones, a CARA senior Unexploded Ordnance manager, the CRT 4 Soldiers were initially “green” about the civilian remediation process but emerged from the mission well trained and knowledgeable.
“This experience and knowledge will serve to enhance their understanding of chemical operations from a practical standpoint,” said Jones, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran from Chicago who has deployed to Haiti and Iraq.
Ten CRT 4 Soldiers took part in the entire five-month remediation mission.
Sgt. 1st Class Karen R. Auzenne, the CRT 4 team sergeant, said getting firsthand experience in recovering and packaging chemical munitions was the highlight of the training mission.
“We always train for different scenarios but for the Soldiers to put their knowledge and skills into action was very rewarding,” said Auzenne, an 18-year Army veteran from Biloxi, Mississippi, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Auzenne added that her team will share their lessons learned with other team members that may have the opportunity to support remediation efforts in the future.
CRT 4 Leader 1st Lt. Craig A. Neal said working with CARA gave his team the opportunity to see the enduring impact of a remediation effort.
“It was fantastic to take part in removing chemical munitions from the ground, packaging them and handing them off for further remediation,” said Neal, an Oxford, Pennsylvania native. “To see that we had a permanent impact on restoring the area and that our team has now gone beyond training and into execution was the highlight of the mission for many, including myself.”
Together with Neal and Auzenne, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan A. Harris, Sgt. 1st Class Mia V. Robles, Staff Sgt. Nicolas M. Warren, Sgt. Germany J. Patrick, Spc. Maslah A. Ali, Spc. Ahmed Del Alba Garza, Spc. Andrew C. Van Deventer and Pfc. Osvaldo E. Castaner deployed with CRT 4 for the remediation mission. The 46th Chemical Company’s CRT 4 is part of 22nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade, 20th CBRNE Command.
Lt. Col. Sean T. Carmody, the commander of 22nd Chemical Battalion, said his battalion always welcomes the opportunity to leverage CARA’s expertise.
“Opportunities like these, for Soldiers to demonstrate leadership and technical proficiency while performing real-world missions, is what we all joined to do,” said Carmody, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Carmody added that the mission was a great training opportunity for the CRT 4 Soldiers and enabled them to hone their life-saving and mission-enabling skills.
“Getting to do the mission alongside the most proficient experts at CARA adds just that much more for our Soldiers to build confidence in their own skills and techniques,” said Carmody. “Ultimately, knowing your training and dedication translated into real, tangible outcomes is a pinnacle experience, whether in combat or support to the homeland.”