In 2005, Pine Bluff Arsenal's Quality Evaluation Facility was dedicated by then commander Col. Tom Woloszyn. It was dedicated in the spirit of civilian heroism in the memory of Annie M. Young, a young woman who worked at the Arsenal in the 1940s on one of the production lines. In 1943, Young saved several workers from two fires.

However, many on the installation are probably still unsure what goes on in that big building that sits on the corner of Sibert Road and Hoadley Road, as they pass through Plainview Gate. They may know it is a laboratory, and they may even know that we have a tenant laboratory there. However, they may not be aware of the work being done and what an asset it is to the U.S. Army and the warfighter.

"We have been testing chemical defense equipment here since 1979," said Terry Hardin, chief of the Testing and Surveillance Division, Directorate of Chemical and Biological Defense Operations. Hardin, who has been at PBA for approximately 25 years, oversees the operations at the QEF. "What we currently test is the M100 decontamination kit, the M295 decontamination kit and the C2A1 canister that goes on Soldier gas masks."

The eight individuals who work at the QEF have a diverse background, an aptitude for the sciences, chemistry and math and are self-starters who are willing to learn, and work long hours, according to Hardin.

Derek Hagood, building operations manager for the QEF, is the one who is on call 24/7, and handles any emergency call-outs for equipment failures or alarms.

"Currently I am the primary and Louis Inzer with the Directorate of Public Works is my alternate," said Hagood. "On the facility side, I monitor the control system which is everything from changing the temperature in an office or lab to maintenance of chillers and boilers -- basically all the preventative maintenance of the building. There is also the administrative side of the job."

Steven Gray, chemical engineer, said that his job is to be the engineering and technical support for the testing activities done in the QEF labs.

"If there are any problems with the testing, I fix them. When we bring new processes on line, I am the one who gets the equipment up and running and writes the procedures and SOPs," Gray said. "I do a little bit of everything when it comes to the non-toxic testing, from handling scheduling to dealing with customers such as TACOM or ECBC. I have also been privileged to do some of the facility tours with visiting VIPs."

The Arsenal's QEF is one of two laboratories in the nation where testing is done with Department of the Army personnel. "There are other laboratories out there but they are run by contractor personnel," said Hardin.

He said they are in the process of setting up test work and development of individual protective equipment like the suits and rubber gear at the QEF. "These require chemicals to test," he said. "We have been working feverously to get up to speed on this. It is a lot of paper work."

Ron Hoffman, chemist, is one of the key individuals working to bring the testing program online at the QEF. "This is a multi-tiered program where you have to comply with security procedures, safety requirements such as air monitoring plus a lot of other testing requirements and other procedures," said Hoffman, who used to work for the Pine Bluff Chemical Activity. "It goes a bit further than my work with the Activity because we are doing hands-on work."

Hoffman said that it fits in with the overall mission of CBD. "The only way to truly test the chemical defense equipment is to challenge it with the specific chemical. That is our whole goal," he said.

Hardin said they hope to be set up to do this type of testing within a year. "The QEF was built for this mission, both toxic and non-toxic testing, and is equipped to handle any type of conditions safely," he said.