By Margaret Browne, Joint Munitions Command Public AffairsApril 3, 2008
When Soldiers and other servicemembers are out in the field and have battle-damaged, possibly contaminated equipment, they need to know where they can go for safe, reliable turn-in.
Joint Munitions Command fields the Army Contaminated Equipment Retrograde Team to provide that service. ACERT is a team capable of responding to accidents and incidents involving the retrograde of radioactively contaminated equipment.
ACERT provides support to the Southwest Asia theater of operations through its collection point at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
The facility consolidates excessed radioactive materials from throughout the theater and is a safe haven and storage area.
Materials include battle-damaged vehicles/equipment contaminated with depleted uranium or other radioactive materials and any equipment containing radioactive sources turned in by Soldiers or discovered in theater. It is a secure fenced area with restricted access.
Michael Kurth, a health physicist with the JMC Safety/Rad Waste Directorate, is the currently deployed ACERT member at Camp Arifjan. He maintains the facility and performs radiation safety related duties for the Army Materiel Command while attached to the 401st Army Field Support Brigade.
His duties may seem daunting to some because they relate to radiation and radioactive contamination. He conducts radiological surveys, looking for contamination, and does any required sampling analysis at the facility on-site laboratory.
"I am the point of contact for any logistics-related radiation issue for all of Southwest Asia," said Kurth. "The ACERT facility serves as the repository for all radioactive materials that require disposal and I'm always available to respond."
ACERT performed radiation surveys of 259 vehicles and aircraft last year alone. This included 147 Bradley fighting vehicles, 107 Abrams tanks and five OH-58 Kiowa helicopters.
"ACERT identified and decontaminated several vehicles prior to retrograde," said Kurth. Retrograde is the process through which damaged vehicles go in for repair and after repair get sent back to units for use on the battlefield.
Volunteers from not only JMC, but also the U.S. Army Garrison Rock Island, Corps of Engineers, Army Medical Command, and even Headquarters, Department of Army have staffed the facility.
Other JMC ACERT health physicists who have deployed to Camp Arifjan facility include Frank Whitaker, Joe Hart and Bill Metcalf.
"The team supports all military services and allies and offers a one-stop shop for excessed radioactive items," said Whitaker. "Some of the radioactive elements that the yard handles are tritium contained in illumination items such as fire control azimuths, thorium for night vision items, americium and nickel contained in chemical agent detectors, strontium contained in calibrators, and many others."
Once the items are collected, "they are shipped to our ACERT Field Services Facility located at Rock Island Arsenal for sorting and segregating, then shipped for recycle or disposal," said Whitaker, health physicist, JMC Safety/Rad Waste Directorate.
Finally, the Arifjan facility serves as the eyes and ears in the SWA theater for much of the CONUS-based Army radiation safety community.
"The ACERT members not only advise the local commander on all things radioactive, they also keep the various command radiation safety officers and item managers for the radioactive materials current on events and issues involving those items in theater," said Kelly Crooks, chief, JMC Rad Waste Operations Division.