By Mrs. Shatara Riis (Blue Grass Chemical Activity)June 28, 2018
What do Blue Grass Chemical Activity and baseball greats Branch Rickey, Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson have in common?
According to the National Archives, Rickey, Cobb and Mathewson all served in the Chemical Warfare Service of the World War I era, in which BGCA can trace its roots.
America's favorite past time saw its shortest baseball season as men were drafted to fight during World War I. They traded their cleats for grenades, as retold by Matt Kelly, communications specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (https://baseballhall.org/discover-more/stories/short-stops/1918-world-war-i-baseball).
In the same manner Major League Baseball made sacrifices to meet the war need, the CWS would have to step up to the plate. Beginning with the Chemical Service Section that birthed the CWS and later became the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, BGCA marks its place in the Corps' 100th year history.
For BGCA, "The most distinct linkage back to the CWS of 1918 is the fact that BGCA and PCD (Pueblo Chemical Depot) are the only places in the country where our Soldiers and civilians are in contact with chemical weapons," said John Riley, retired Army colonel and former BGCA commander.
Riley added that although Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Soldiers today receive training in toxic chemical operations, survey and monitoring, and decontamination; there are an elite few who conduct the same operations in actual, potentially contaminated chemical weapons environments.
"Similarly, the laboratory capabilities of BGCA and PCD trace their history to the early days of CWS personnel who were responsible for the development of the offensive capability of the United States, as well as development of protective measures," Riley said.
U.S. Army Chemical Corps Museum Director Kip Lindberg included in his article, "What's in a Name? Our Corps' Identity and Missions," that the Chemical Corps' mission advanced from mere gas protection to include research and development, procurement and supply of all chemicals to the Army.
Developing and producing all smoke and incendiary materials were added later, along with duties acting as an adviser on the chemistry of explosives to develop training programs and contingency plans to counter chemical attacks on the continental United States. A biological research program and measures for detecting, protecting and decontaminating radiological material were also developed.
With all of these mission sets, the Chemical Corps would move from the offensive to the defensive.
"Did the threat of the foreign use of these agents (chemical, biological or atomic) justify the risks associated with producing, testing and stockpiling chemical and biological weapons?" Lindberg, questioned.
In 1997, the United States and 86 other nations signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. Each nation agreed to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile and former production facilities, and to halt the development, use, production and acquisition of chemical weapons.
BGCA activated prior to 1997 before the treaty was signed and took its place in the Chemical Corps' mission to ensure the safe and secure storage of the chemical weapons stockpile until demilitarization.