From left to right: Jeff Gonce – Chief, Field Maintenance Branch, Anna Kirby – Chemical Engineering Technician, Frank Reinsfelder – Chemical Engineering Technician, Ann Brozena – Research Chemist, Elan Kazam – Mechanical Engineer, Jeff Mott – Chemical Engineering Technician.
An Inflection Point in History
Bodies wrapped in white shrouds line the floor of an unknown location in Syria. Shirtless men convulsing and foaming at the mouth have eyes that are open yet unresponsive. A five-year-old boy lay limp in the arms of an older man. It is unclear whether the child is still breathing. The bodies of other children dressed in brightly colored clothing lay lifeless on a white-tiled floor. These were some of the startling images and videos that surfaced in the wake of a chemical weapons attack in Syria on Aug. 21, 2013, killing more than 1,400 people. The event marked an inflection point in global history.
The tremor of this significant tragedy was felt around the world, changing the geopolitical terrain and challenging the connectedness of international relationships. The international community responded with a momentous decision to directly address the chemical weapons attack and the United States offered to work with others like the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations to eliminate the threat from occurring again.
ECBC Innovates in a New Era of Chem-Bio Defense
With an Army known for traditional “boots on the ground” defense, the Department of Defense pivoted its strategy to include a more agile, flexible approach to solve a pressing problem. It called on the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and other organizations located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., for inter-disciplinary teamwork that could solve the right problem through corrective framing: a new chemical weapons disposal capability.
“There was a recognition that something was going to happen in Syria, in all likelihood that would require us to do something with those chemical materials that were known to be there,” said Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics during a DoD media event on Jan. 2.
ECBC has specialized expertise in chemical demilitarization and field operations. It’s Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction Business Unit is comprised of 200 highly trained and experienced scientists, technicians and operators that have been safely conducting chemical demilitarization missions for decades in an environmentally responsible manner, including the successful destruction of chemical agent stockpiles at U.S. site locations and countries around the world.