|Chemical Demilitarization Unit Deactivates|
Chemical Demilitarization Unit Deactivates
By Joseph Bonfiglio, Army News Service.
Fort Shafter, Hawaii -- (ANS) August 6, 2001 -- An Army unit that spenb 30 years destroying chemical weapons in the Pacific cased its unit colors in a ceremony Aug. 1.
The U.S. Army Chemical Activity, Pacific was inactivated on Johnston Island, part of a small atoll about 825 miles southwest of Hawaii. Maj. Gen. Craig Whelden, the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, officiated in the inactivation ceremony. The casing of the colors was the last milestone for USACAP, officials said.
USACAP was honored in an April 11 ceremony for the successful completion of its 30-year Surety Mission to safely store, secure, transport and account for chemical weapons on the remote island.
USACAP's chemical surety mission was designed to protect the Pacific community and environment, plus all the workers on Johnston Island, officials said. The unit ensured that chemical disposal operations were conducted safely, that chemical agents were stored securely and that personnel met the highest standards of reliability.
"This is a significant achievement for the Army after having successfully and safely destroyed thousands of chemical munitions built up during the Cold War years," Whelden said. "It shows the versatility of the Army and illustrates our ability to -- not just prosecute war -- but also to preserve and enhance peace."
From 1971, when Operation Red Hat moved chemical weapons from Okinawa to Johnston Island, until November 2000, when the last chemical weapon was destroyed, USACAP performed its mission without a single serious incident, said Lt. Col. John Esce, USACAP executive officer.
"This accomplishment was made possible by a true team of USACAP soldiers, airmen, federal civilian employees and dedicated private sector contractors who served their country selflessly while working at a remote and isolated location away from their loved ones for extended periods of time," said Col. Steve Brooks, USACAP commander.
USACAP supported the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System facility on Johnston Island since construction was completed in 1990. More than 400,000 rockets, projectiles, bombs, mortars, ton containers, and mines were safely destroyed, according to the JACADS Project Manager, Gary McCloskey.
"JACADS also destroyed more than 2,000 tons of chemical agent in the form of nerve agent (GB, also known as Sarin, and VX) and blister agent (HD), McCloskey said. Our 100 percent destruction of Johnston Island's stockpile adds up to almost 7 percent of the nation's original total stockpile,"he said. JACADS was the nation's first fully integrated facility designed specifically for the disposal of chemical weapons, officials said.
The JACADS plant was the first of nine proposed and operating U.S. chemical weapons storage and demilitarization facilities to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile in accordance with the international Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty of 1997.
According to Esce, USACAP's 30-year history of of chemical weapons storage and demilitarization sets the standard for the eight other U.S. chemical weapons stockpile sites and the world.
JACADS was the only U.S. chemical weapons storage site where soldiers and Department of the Army civilians were responsible for the accountability, security, storage, and transport of chemical munitions. All other sites are run only by contractors and Department of Defense civilians.
"The accomplishments of JACADS and USACAP are truly unique and set the standard for all other signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty," said Esce. "The safe elimination of chemical weapons on Johnston Island has opened a new era for a world free from chemical weapons."
"The soldiers, DOD civilians and contractors who have safely destroyed the chemical weapons on Johnston Island should be extremely proud of their accomplishment. This is an historical event that will improve the security of the United States and provide hope for the rest of the world that the 21st century will be safer for our children and grandchildren," said Army Lt. Gen. Paul Kern, the deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
Johnston Atoll is part of a thriving wildlife sanctuary that boasts abundant sea birds and marine life. The lessons learned on Johnston Island are being applied to the Army's other disposal facilities, officials said, thus ensuring the continued safe destruction of chemical weapons.
These same lessons are being offered to other world nations in their efforts to destroy their chemical weapons stockpiles, according to Esce. Since all chemical weapons were destroyed last year, USACAP has been closing its facilities, turning in its equipment and standing down all the personnel related to the USACAP mission.
All remaining USACAP property left the island by LSV (an Army vessel) recently and the last soldier will depart the island on Aug. 17. Working in cooperation with several federal oversight agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal government is now in the process of closing down the JACADS plant.
The Program Manger for Chemical Demilitarization will remain on the island to destroy associated hazardous waste and dismantle the JACADS plant through Fiscal Year 2003.
The future disposition of the island will be determined by several federal agencies including the Department of Defense, the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Part of the process leading to closure will include disposing of miscellaneous secondary waste that was produced during disposal operations, officials said. Closure is scheduled to take up to 30 months.