Thursday, January 5, 2012

A talk with Jeff Smart, Aberdeen Proving Ground Command Historian of the G-5 Historical Operations Division

As a part of ECBC History Month, Historian Jeff Smart who is the the official command historian for RDECOM Headquarters answered four questions about his background and job.

                                                     How did you get your start as a professional historian?

I completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts degrees in history at San Jose State University, in San Jose, CA. While searching for a history job, I ended up working for the Internal Revenue Service as a Revenue Officer for one year and then becoming a Special Agent with the Defense Investigative Service. After two years of being known as "Agent Smart" I finally got my dream job as a historian. Unfortunately it was about 2,900 miles from where I grew up, so I loaded up my car and moved to Bel Air.

How did you end up in your current position, and what does that position entail?

I was hired in 1984 by the U.S. Army Armament, Munitions and Chemical Command (AMCCOM) Historical Office in Rock Island, IL, to be their field historian for the newly created Chemical Research and Development Center in the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground. Eventually, AMCCOM went away, and my office became part of the Chemical Research, Development and Engineering Center (CRDEC). When the headquarters of the Chemical Biological Defense Command (CBDCOM) was created from CRDEC in 1993, my office left CRDEC, but we continued to serve as its Historical Office. Over the years, CBDCOM became the Soldier and Biological Chemical Command and then the current Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM). During that same time, CRDEC became ECBC, and we continued to provide their historical support. Today, I am the Command Historian for RDECOM Headquarters. Our office, the G-5 Historical Operations Division, has seven personnel and serves the RDECOM Headquarters and sub-elements (including ECBC), Chemical Materials Agency, 20th Support Command, APG Garrison and other APG tenant organizations as necessary.

Our areas of expertise include: 1) environmental remediation of former chemical sites; 2) history of chemical warfare, equipment, and weapons; 3) history of Army research & development and 4) installation and local history. When I started working at APG, the office consisted of absolutely nothing. Today, we are located in Building E5027 and have about 350 file cabinets of historical information dating from 1917 and a large multimedia collection of films, videotapes and still photographs.

What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the job is researching history, working with old documents and pictures and then presenting history in a narrative format or as a presentation.

What is a little known fact about you that your coworkers may not know?
During my free time at home, I love to research and write history. I have just finished a paper on the military history of Harford County during 1862 for the Historical Society of Harford County. I also enjoy doing genealogy research with my wife, Page. Yes, her name really is Page Smart, and she also has a history degree and is a reference librarian. We met in the microfilm section of the San Jose State Library about 33 years ago, and the rest is history.


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