GB rockets transported for destruction
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Daniel K., toxic materials handler, and Jeremiah L., quality assurance specialist/ammunition surveillance, strap GB rockets onto a pallet to prepare the munitions for movement to the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant for demilitarization. (Photo Credit: Jana Felts) VIEW ORIGINAL
GB rockets transported for destruction
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Daniel M., toxic materials handler leader, guides the forklift operator as he removes GB rockets from the earth covered magazine. (Photo Credit: Jana Felts) VIEW ORIGINAL

Blue Grass Chemical Activity (BGCA) toxic materials handlers supported the first movement of GB rockets to the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) earlier this month for demilitarization.

“This is a historic moment for everyone involved in chemical weapons demilitarization,” said Lt. Col. Edward E. Williams, BGCA commander. “The safe movement of these rockets initiated the campaign to destroy the nation’s only remaining nerve agent stockpile.”

The first GB rockets were transported to the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD), formerly known as the Lexington-Blue Grass Depot Activity, in the early 1960s. Since then, they have been safely stored on BGAD and are now slated for destruction by the treaty commitment date of Sept. 30, 2023. Public law mandates stockpile destruction by Dec. 31, 2023.

“BGCA is postured to fully support this fifth and final chemical weapons destruction operation at BGCAPP,” said James L. Hall, BGCA deputy commander. “We have worked closely with our mission partners on and off the installation to ensure the safety of the community, workforce and environment. Our team has done an incredible job supporting each campaign and successfully overcoming any challenge presented.”

Prior to supporting munitions movement for GB rockets, BGCA personnel supported four other BGCAPP chemical weapons demilitarization campaigns. These included the destruction of mustard blister agent projectiles, VX and GB nerve agent projectiles and VX rockets.

“We have worked diligently with our mission partners at the plant to continually improve our processes,” said David Velazquez, chemical operations director. “We’ve established a very good relationship with BGCAPP and Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) personnel as we work toward this common goal.”

The previous four campaigns have provided valuable insight on best practices to ensure safety and efficiency throughout the munitions movement process. The chemical crews performed the same tasks multiple times throughout each campaign, refining their skills and navigating challenges.

Velazquez said team performance improved throughout the munitions movement process. Chemical operations crews repeatedly removed pallets from earth covered magazines, strapped them onto trays, and loaded them into enhanced on-site containers for movement to the demilitarization plant. As each campaign progressed, the team found ways to do things better, leading to smoother operations.

“The VX rocket campaign and warhead returns prepared our team for this upcoming GB rocket campaign,” said Velazquez. “We met regularly with our mission partners to discuss various courses of action to best support BGCAPP. This practice has set a solid foundation for continued success to accomplish the mission.”

Then completion of chemical weapons destruction will mark the fulfillment of the nation’s demilitarization obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. Once the last GB rocket is destroyed, ACWA, BGCAPP and BGCA will start site closure activities. The BGAD will continue its mission of storing and distributing conventional munitions and chemical defense equipment after the chemical weapons are destroyed.