The 2nd Chemical Battalion team destroys World War II munitions

The 2nd Chemical Battalion team destroys World War II munitions By Suzan Holl, CBRNE 20th Public Relations Management Unit, February 2, 2018

ABERDEEN PROVERING GROUND, Md. - Soldiers from the 48th Chemical Brigade recently applied their expertise when participating in a mission to destroy eight chemical munitions on the island of San Jose in Panama.

As early as 1978, the Panamanians raised the issue of potential threats and the feasibility of removing potential chemical munitions on the island, according to a 2015 report by the Army Assistant Secretary. When Panama acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1998, the development of the island of San Jose was examined and the question of possible dangers was raised again. The report states that in 2001, the private company inspected the island and documented the existence of chemical warfare items, some of which originated in the United States.

In May 2013, the Panamanian government requested assistance from the United States in the assessment of eight munitions suspected of being filled with chemical agents. Next year, CARA, an analytical and remediation activity for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive substances, was part of the 20th CBRNE Command sent to San Jose with the southern US Army to conduct a detailed assessment of eight World War II chemical munitions. have been declared by the Government of Panama and confirmed to be from the United States. The Army conducted a detailed description of the munitions site in June 2014 and completed an assessment in January 2016 to determine the possible chemical filling of the munitions and how best to dispose of them safely.

In September, members of the Second CBRN Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas arrived on San Jose Island and joined a team of thematic experts from the Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction Business Directorate at the Edgewood Center for Chemical Biology in the Southern U.S. Army (CARA) to destroy aerospace, weather, medical, maintenance and communications personnel. by detonation of chemical weapons that had stood still for more than 70 years.

The island of San Jose is located on the Pacific Ocean off the south coast of Panama, about 55 miles from Panama City.

"Because the island is off the mainland, the team conducted countless samples during the preparation and execution phases of the mission," said Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Siebold, Commander of the 2nd CBRN Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade, 20th CBRNE Command. This included setting the conditions for the safe conduct of the mission and for taking responsibility for all personnel on the island.

"From real-time risk planning to restricting the movement of DOD (Ministry of Defense) personnel and islanders, the mission could only be carried out if the required safety conditions were in place," Siebold said.

The other CBRN battalion was the headquarters of the tactical mission for the destruction of chemical munitions, Siebold said. This included the preparation and implementation of the tactical measures necessary for the safe achievement of strategic end-states with the Southern Army, the Echelon of the Army Service Components Command, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the Government of Panama.

Under the International Chemical Weapons Convention, the Panamanian government notified the OPCW of the presence of their ammunition and was responsible for their controlled destruction.

To carry out these operations, Siebold organized the occupation activities of his team on the island and at the ammunition sites. It consisted of preparing munitions for detonation, restarting the crew in potentially contaminated environments, and checking that chemical and explosion hazards no longer existed. In addition, as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention agreement, the team recycled and packaged ammunition fragments for proper destruction in the United States.

Another element that played a major role in the safe detonation of weapons was Mother Nature. Eight chemical weapons for detonation had been sitting in the lush vegetation of the island for more than 70 years.

"The main concern for the stability of ships and their chemical components," said Siebold, "was when the munitions were detonated - could the substance be released without being dangerous?

"The most difficult condition to alleviate the safe destruction of ammunition was to ensure that sufficient rain was available during the detonation to ensure that any volatility of the chemical components in water and time was further reduced," he said.

According to Siebold, the actual destruction of all munitions took about 12 days, including detonation, return to these areas and inspections.

"The pace of the operation was primarily influenced by the presence of the right weather conditions. During the detonation and entry, there was rain and no rain to control the negativity of the threat," he said.

The execution schedule accurately reflected the pre-determined planning deadlines.

"We destroyed munitions in four groups to minimize time requirements, maximize rainfall, mitigate risk and ensure the safety of all resources," Siebold said.

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