ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency has reached another major milestone with the destruction of another munition type at one of its sites.

This milestone was reached Feb. 29 when the Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ark., destroyed its last M55 rocket.

The end of the M55 rocket campaign reduces the overall cumulative storage risk to the public by 94 percent counting all sites. CMA has safely destroyed all GB and VX-filled M55 rockets stored at Johnston Island in the south Pacific; Tooele, Utah; Pine Bluff, Ark.; Umatilla, Ore.; and Anniston, Ala.

"By destroying the last M55 rocket at Pine Bluff, CMA continues to do its part to improve the safety of those living nearest our stockpiles," said CMA Director Conrad Whyne. "We have reduced the chemical storage risk for the communities around our sites as well as the risk to our workers who are charged with destroying some of the most dangerous weapons from our past."

Rockets represent a greater risk in storage than any other munitions in the U.S. stockpile because they are a complete weapon system, containing high explosives, a propellant motor and an agent-filled warhead that work together to ignite, propel the rocket and release the agent. Each rocket contains approximately 10 pounds of agent.

M55 rockets were never used in combat, but served as a deterrent. Developed in the late 1950s, more than 400,000 were produced in the United States between 1961 and 1965. CMA overcame both storage and disposal challenges presented by the rockets' explosive configuration.

Safety measures were taken to reduce the risk to workers and the public. GB-filled M55 rockets were targeted first for disposal at each of the above-mentioned sites. CMA also implemented strict inspection procedures, conducted risk assessments and developed contingency plans to reduce risk. Mitigation measures were implemented to reduce the risk of external events such as lightning strikes or earthquakes.

"With both the GB and VX rockets destroyed, the risk to the local Pine Bluff community has been reduced by 97 percent," said Lt. Col. Clifton Johnston, PBCA commander.

"This is a significant accomplishment for all the dedicated men and women working on the chemical weapons disposal project," said Mark Greer, PBCDF site project manager.

The Pine Bluff facility will now focus on disposing of VX-filled land mines. CMA hopes to reach its next major milestone, the elimination of all VX agent, some time in 2009.

While reaching this rocket disposal milestone is a significant achievement, CMA remains vigilant in its M55 rocket safe storage mission. A CMA subordinate unit, the Blue Grass Chemical Activity, is responsible for the safe storage of M55 rockets at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky. CMA will continue this storage mission pending those rockets being destroyed via the Program Manager for Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives.