June 29, 2009
By Becki Bryant
Better late than never. That was the sentiment behind a special event held June 18 in honor of the Chemical Agent Munitions Disposal System (CAMDS). The celebration was an opportunity to formally recognize CAMDS' long list of contributions to the nation's chemical weapons elimination program before it's too late. The former research, test and development facility is currently undergoing closure and is expected to be completely torn down within two years.
"Today we pay tribute to the legacy of CAMDS and its workers...and all of those who have supported the mission of CAMDS over the last 30 years," said DCD Commander, Col. Gerald L. Gladney. "You can take great pride in where you worked and what you all have contributed."
Located at the Deseret Chemical Depot, CAMDS started operations in September 1979. During its existence, workers destroyed more than 363,000 pounds of chemical agents and more than 40,000 munitions, and they pioneered most of the processes and techniques still used at U.S. stockpiles, including chemical munitions handling/disassembly, incineration, pollution abatement systems, neutralization, personal protection equipment and secondary waste treatment.
Doug Peirce, who worked at CAMDS from the start, highlighted one particular CAMDS accomplishment: the rocket saw machine. It was a temperamental piece of equipment that didn't cut up M55 rockets very well because its six saw blades frequently broke. "That machine was a nightmare," recalled Peirce. CAMDS workers transformed the rocket saw machine into the rocket shear machine with one guillotine-like blade. The switch was a huge success-requiring little maintenance and saving both time and money.
"The rocket shear machine is an excellent example of how CAMDS did its job," said Peirce. "Its job was to efficiently develop processes that would work well in a large facility."
CMA Deputy Director Don Barclay, who started his career within the Army's chemical demilitarization program as the risk manager for CAMDS and later served as the director, attributed CAMDS' success to its workforce. "It didn't matter what the barrier was or the challenge, you took it on. You believed you could do anything and you believed in yourselves. You knew there would be challenges, but you were willing to stand up and take those challenges on for the Army."
The CAMDS workforce was not only dedicated, but close-knit as well. Like siblings, this working family teased each other endlessly, but there was affection, admiration, and an unspoken oath to look after one another-no matter what. "You got sang to on your birthday, you got slammed at the Christmas party, and you got harassed every day of your working career," recalled former CAMDS employee Vern Carson, "but you knew that if you ever got into trouble, these same people would risk their lives to save yours."
The celebration made it abundantly clear that even though CAMDS will soon be gone, it will never be forgotten. Along with countless memories and an unbreakable bond of dedication and perseverance, CAMDS will forever remain the foundation of the U.S. chemical stockpile elimination program.