Monday, November 3, 2014

Employee Spotlight: Jennifer Iskra

Today we profile Jennifer Iskra, a systems engineer matrixed to the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance (JPM-NBC CA). She is currently on a six-month assignment in a surety laboratory with the Applied Detection Technology Laboratory in the Engineering Test Division.

Tell us about your assignment in the surety laboratory.

In this assignment, I have the opportunity to test chemical detection equipment in various stages of maturity, from prototypes to fielded systems. I also assist in collecting data regarding how equipment performs against certain chemicals and under various environmental conditions. This is my first experience working in a chemical laboratory environment, so the work is very different from what I do in the JPM, but it is both challenging and fun. My job in the JPM is as a systems engineering, taking equipment through the acquisition process. I focused on planning the tests associated with that process. This assignment has given me a better understanding of the methods behind how test data is generated and how it is provided to the customer. I plan to apply what I learn in this assignment to the work the JPM is doing on the Next Generation Chemical Detection program, as well as other projects within the JPM.

What are the benefits of this role for both ECBC and the JPM-NBC CA?

This experience helps to share knowledge between both organizations. ECBC will gain a better understanding of one of their customers, the JPM; and the JPM will gain a deeper understanding behind the test methods employed to generate their data. The JPM has also had someone from an ECBC surety lab in my position while I am on the developmental assignment that is experienced in testing and is helping strengthen that knowledge in the JPM.

What have you learned about customer service in this role? Why is customer service important to ECBC?

The Engineering Directorate at ECBC is a very customer-focused organization. In this role, I get to see how the laboratory interacts with their customers throughout the entire testing process. I have learned that it is not only important to get results to the customer quickly, but to ensure that they understand the data and how it was generated. Additionally, the laboratory is able to quickly adapt to changes in test plans, which is important to their customers.

What are your favorite hobbies or activities outside of work?

I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Maryland. In my free time, I enjoy volunteering at the Humane Society of Harford County, walking and socializing dogs, and fostering kittens until they can be adopted. I also love to golf and create stained glass art.

Friday, September 26, 2014

ECBC Engineers Find Invaluable Lessons in Naval Postgraduate School Master’s in Systems Engineering Program

Continuing education is a focus at ECBC, and the 2014 cohort of engineers who recently graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) with the degree of Master of Science in Systems Engineering (MSSE) agree the experience is an invaluable part of their growing careers.

“Well-trained systems engineers can play a very valuable role in the success of future Army programs,” said Joseph Siegel, the Multi-Sample Identifier Test Lead for the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance. “The time and monetary investment in our education by RDECOM will be paid back tenfold by the future work that we will deliver.”
Siegel was one of four ECBC Engineering Directorate employees who graduated from the NPS program on 20 June. He and Maureen Jacobs, Allen Lai and Cynthia Learn completed the 14 required courses and a three-quarter-long capstone project to earn their MSSEs. The program included courses on probability and statistics, engineering economics and cost estimation, system suitability, systems assessment, engineering project management, systems architecture and design, systems integration and development, systems software engineering, and system-of-systems engineering.

The mission of the NPS Department of Systems Engineering is to provide relevant, tailored and unique advanced education and research programs in systems engineering in order to increase the combat effectiveness of U.S. and Allied armed forces and to enhance the security of the United States.

This year’s graduates agreed that the program will provide significant value in completing their work for ECBC and its customers.

“The ability to look at an issue, determine the need and problem, define the requirements and analyze a solution is a lot of what is done in the engineering world,” said Jacobs, Individual Protection Team Lead with the Sustainment Engineering Division at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. “An education in systems engineering provides the knowledge and skills to approach an issue, problem or project with a stronger understanding of not only the process you need to apply, but also the factors that need to be addressed. There really is no single step-by-step guide; it is more of an adaptable methodology and an ingrained thought process and understanding, so when you approach a project you are addressing what is needed in order to provide a better solution as a whole, while still working within the limits of available resources.“

One of the first projects Jacobs was assigned during the coursework focused on addressing the lack of calcium available to people on a remote island. Jacobs said some students had a tendency to jump to a solution without actually defining the problem, need, stakeholder requirements or even the system itself. She said this project provided a valuable lesson in applying the systems engineering methodology in order to find a better solution, and put into perspective how systems can be defined in various ways.

Capstone projects complemented individual classroom learning and were a critical part of the experience, the participants said. Jacobs’ project originated from RDECOM and was based on a need from the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) to evaluate risk reduction activities. The capstone team focused on assessing the merit of the field-based risk reduction (FBRR) methodology within the traditional acquisition process.

“The capstone project was the most rewarding part of the program,” Jacobs said. “It provided an opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge gained throughout the program on a real-life project. The deliverables of the project are data, tools and models the project sponsor, CERDEC, greatly appreciated, as the information can be used for future projects as well as help support their current activities."

Siegel also said he gained invaluable experience from his capstone project, but the best aspect of his time studying at NPS was the exposure to other experts.

“The most rewarding part of the MSSE program was working with highly motivated, experienced and smart Army systems engineers,” he noted. “You learn as much from your peers as from the professors. Being part of this group of like-minded individuals and succeeding together was a very rewarding experience.”

Personal growth and career progression aren’t the only gains from the NPS MSSE. Talented systems engineers are critical to the success of ECBC and the Army in general, Siegel said. Having NPS-trained engineers within various organizations will help focus systems engineering activities and promote better practices.

“One of the most important aspects of the NPS program is that it provides a great opportunity to receive a higher-level education that is adaptable to the Department of Defense. Thus, there is a direct correlation to our work,” Jacobs said.

Photo Credit: Maureen Jacobs (ECBC)
Cindy Learn (left), Allen Lai (second from left), and Maureen Jacobs (far right) from the Engineering Directorate celebrate their graduation from the Naval Postgraduate School on June 20 alongside Kerry von Jacobi, Ephraim “Joe” Befecadu and Arborne Kent Guthrie from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center. The group worked together on a capstone project as part of their curriculum. Joseph Siegel (not pictured), Engineering employee matrixed to the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance (JPM-NBC CA), also graduated from the program.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Employee Spotlight: Justin Nix

Chemical engineering technician supports field operations with analytical expertise

Q. What is your current job at CBARR?
A. I’m a chemical engineering technician. I work in the lab running gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) equipment. I first started working at ECBC in 2009 and am primarily located at Pine Bluff Arsenal (PBA), Arkansas.

Q. What is your background? How have these experiences shaped your perspective on the work you do?
A. I’ve almost always worked in a lab. My previous jobs included running GC-MS for hazardous waste material and I was an environmental protection specialist at PBA for a few years before CBARR. I’ve also had a few jobs as a chemist working for companies in the private industry.

Q. What has your experience been like at CBARR? How would you describe the culture?
A. I’ve never worked any place like this in my life. It’s a great thing. It’s the most unique job I’ve ever had because you can travel to different places. I’ve been to Australia, Oregon, Arizona, Baltimore and Spring Valley in Washington, D.C.

Q. How would you describe the culture?
A. It’s dynamic. There’s always something new going on, new work on the horizon, and something is always changing. It’s pretty cool, I like that. It’s enjoyable to work on a variety of different project.

Q. How would you describe a typical field operation? What is your role?
A. It’s a team effort and everybody has a part to play. CBARR’s role is part of a bigger remediation picture and I’m the mobile laboratory point of contact for operators and other site managers out in the field. We take a strong stance on safety and are the first line of defense for technicians running the MINICAMS and DAAMS equipment onsite. If they get three consecutive alarms, they bring me samples from the field and we do a confirmation analysis for identification and verification. And that’s important. We do a lot of training ahead of time to prepare us.

Q. How does it feel to be working toward a world free of WMD?
A. I know the work that we do is important, but my job is looking for something I hope I never find: chemical agent. Instead, I’ve always thought of our mission as being goal-oriented. We have somewhere we’re trying to go and we know the way to accomplish it. That’s the mindset I’ve always had.

Q. What’s your favorite part about working at ECBC?
A. I like to meet new people and we get to do a lot of that when we travel. I’ve met some really great people all over the place and it’s neat to see how they do things, as well as talk to them about their hobbies. That’s a big deal to me and I like that. I also love to learn about the history of different Army installations to see where we came from.

Q. What are your hobbies outside of work?
A. I’ve been a runner for 27 years or so, and I’ve always hunted deer and love to fish. I like being outside. It’s a favorite pastime for me and my kids.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Employee Spotlight: Shelby Bartram

Shelby Bartram is an intern with the Protection Factor Test Team in the Engineering Test Division. She is currently participating in the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) program, which supports her education in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) discipline and matches her with a job opportunity after graduation. Bartram has been involved with STEM programs at ECBC since high school.

How did you first get involved at ECBC?

I was reluctant at first, but my parents encouraged me to sign up for the Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) when the STEM outreach board visited Perryville Middle School in Cecil County, where I went to school. I didn’t want to be a scientist—I wanted to be a teacher—but my parents told me I should try it and could stop after a year, so I signed up. It’s one of the times when you look back and thank them.

And you have stayed involved working at ECBC through college?

Yes, I moved from SEAP to other summer internships like the Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) summer program at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and I have now been in the SMART program for two years. During my first year in the SEAP program, I was doing research online because I thought engineers were just people who worked on trains. I wrote a paper about chemical engineering and then found all of the fields within biomedical engineering, and something clicked and I thought, “This is something I really want to do.”

What are you studying in school?

I am in a five-year program to get my Bachelor’s in Science in biomedical engineering with a minor in chemistry and a Master’s degree in engineering management. I’m going into my senior year at Western New England University in Massachusetts.

What has been the most rewarding experience about participating in these STEM programs?

I have been asked many times to be a keynote speaker for other students or classes to tell them about my experience and the opportunities available, and that’s been the best part for me. I love being able to share these options with kids and tell them not to hold anything back and not give up on their dreams, because there are programs through the government that provide incredible opportunities.

How do you see yourself staying connected to ECBC?

I plan to explore the career options at ECBC by talking to mentors and learning about the capabilities on post and how they align with what I want to do. I also plan to stay involved with STEM outreach activities so I can pass my experiences onto current students and educate kids about the possibilities for careers like mine in this field.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

ECBC and UMB partner to launch the careers of young scientists

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) has established an Education Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Graduate Program in Life Sciences and the UMB Graduate School. The ECBC-UMB Student Internship Program (EUSIP) allows students currently pursuing a master’s degree in molecular medicine or toxicology at UMB an opportunity to work alongside experienced ECBC scientists at ECBC facilities and fosters a mutually beneficial technology transfer and collaborative relationship between the two parties.

Continuing into fiscal year 2014 - 2015, participating students will work on ongoing research projects with an ECBC Principal Investigator and conduct research that can be used toward fulfillment of their UMB degree requirements. Interns gain access to the state-of-the-art research facilities at ECBC, as well as experts who can also serve as career mentors. ECBC in turn benefits from the students’ fresh scientific insights and techniques while enhancing their capability to recruit new talent into careers within the Department of Defense (DoD).

Robert Dorsey, the BioSensors Branch Chief, and co-lead Jeff Ballin, Ph.D., an Excet Inc., a research biologist working within the BioTechnology Branch, looked for new ways to improve recruitment and innovation into their projects . Previously, interns came from high schools or undergraduate institutions to work at ECBC during their summer break. However, as a large portion student time was often used for paperwork and training, many found the time spent by students doing actual laboratory work was often too short to make a significant impact.

Dr. Ballin said his main goal in selecting projects and PIs for this program was finding people who could serve as good career mentors for the students while providing research programs with strong opportunities for growth and development.

“This program relies on mentors who are more than just good researchers. We need good researchers who can also foster the growth of a student. The PIs serve on the student’s thesis committee since the work done with the PI is the central focus of the thesis. A student must have the right support for their professional career to flourish,” Ballin said.

One of the first students to participate in this program is Ashley Larsen. Larsen sat down with us to discuss some of her experiences thus far with ECBC.

How did you find out about ECBC’s program?

I found out about the EUSIP program through my graduate school; I attended a presentation in which several representatives from ECBC provided brief overviews of the projects they are working on and which graduate students would be helpful and able to learn.

What is your academic background?

I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2012, graduating with a B.S. in

Biological Sciences with an emphasis on microbiology. More recently I just successfully completed my master’s program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, graduating with a M.S. in Molecular Medicine and specializing in physiology/ pharmacology.

What are you working on right now and with whom?

I am currently working with Dr. Henry S. Gibbons on a project that focuses on developing an ideal Bacillus anthracis surrogate strain to predict the behavior of potential biothreat agents within the environment. My current goal is to improve the efficiency of integration of a stable genetic tag into a surrogate organism in order to make its detection via specific PCR assays in environmental simulations easier.

What has been the most interesting part of your work so far?

The most interesting part of my work so far is being able to work towards a goal that I can visualize having real-world applications. In the past, my lab work has been focused mostly on academics and trying to understand particular biological phenomena rather than trying to create an end product that can be used to help people in real life.

How have you applied your work at ECBC to your coursework, and vice versa: how have you applied some of your coursework to this internship?

The core course that all life science graduate students are required to take at UMB provided me with a generalized overview of many advanced molecular biology techniques. I was able to use that knowledge extensively in the lab, as I am mostly performing molecular cloning and use several molecular diagnostic tests to verify my results. Additionally, I have been able to use what I have learned in the lab to further expand upon my basic molecular biology knowledge and revisit the microbiology aspect of my studies.

What are your plans for the future?

My future plans are currently undecided. I have always been extremely interested in the medical field, so applying to medical school or to a physician assistant program may be one option. On the other hand, I am fascinated by the current research that has been ongoing in the fields of biology and medicine, so I may decide to apply to a Ph.D. program and focus more on host-pathogen interactions within the next few years.

Ashley Larsen (pictured above), was the first student to participate in the ECBC-UMB Student Internship Program in January 2014. Larsen graduated UMB in May 2014 with an M.S. in Molecular Medicine and specializing in physiology/ pharmacology, and completed the ECBC internship program at the same time. Currently, she is continuing her science career with ECBC as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow within ECBC’s BioSciences Division.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

ECBC Offers West Point Cadets a Unique Summer Experience

West Point Cadets, Caitlin Anderson (left) and Carl Adams (right).
After completing an arduous junior year at West Point, Cadets Caitlin Anderson and Carl Adams were given a choice. Go on leave and be with their families or spend two weeks participating in life sciences research at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland. They chose the lab work.

“I got to participate in research about the effects of pesticide exposure on cell signaling in humans. This translates directly to developing better ways to help injured soldiers whose healing could potentially be impeded by chemical exposure,” said Anderson. “I helped grow and feed the mesenchymal stem cells in the lab, then differentiated them into bone cells.”

Adams spent his two weeks helping to encode binary data to be implanted into bacteria in the form of DNA. “I prepped the bacteria to make it ready to accept the encoded DNA. The idea is to see how much data can be stored and how the DNA will mutate so we can find out what that does to the fidelity of the data,” he said.

The Cadets were taking part in the Academy’s Advanced Individual Academic Development program. It provides Cadets with an opportunity to apply their course work to a real research lab project under the guidance of the Army’s, and the nation’s, leading chemical and biological defense scientists.

 “I had no idea how much research the Army has been doing to protect soldiers from chemical and biological threats. I was especially impressed by the advances in helping soldiers to heal from exposures,” said Anderson. Added Adams, “I could see that this research results in the constant improvement of chemical and biological protection systems. Make it a little lighter, a little more user-friendly, that can be the difference between life and death on the battlefield.”

Adams’ mentor at ECBC was Dr. Matthew Lux. “It was a wonderful experience to have Carl at ECBC. He was enthusiastic and took the initiative to shadow other scientists in the lab during his downtime in order to get the most out of his brief experience,” said Lux. Anderson’s mentor, biologist Amber Prugh, added, “Caitlin was excited to intern at ECBC and I was pleased to host her during her short time here. It was her first experience being in a customer-directed research lab. It’s very different from an academic lab. She got to learn about our emphasis on safety and security, and she participated in real world lab work.”

"Amber really took me under her wing,” said Anderson. “She made sure I got to see as many other research projects as possible, and she took an interest in my career ambitions giving me good advice,” she added.

Ultimately, Anderson, who hails from Edmond, Okla., plans to pursue research in the life sciences. In the meantime, she would like to start her Army officer career in military intelligence. Adams grew up in Bethesda, Md., and plans to either start out in military intelligence or artillery. He, too, hopes to ultimately end up in a medical field.

Wherever they go while in the Army, when they are issued their chemical/biological protection gear they will have a unique appreciation of all the research that made it possible.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

ECBC Employee Spotlight: Stephen Harper, Environmental & Field Testing Branch Chief

This month’s Engineering Edge Employee Spotlight is on Stephen Harper, Branch Chief of the Environmental & Field Testing Branch in the Engineering Test Division. He is also a Black Hawk Helicopter Instructor Pilot and Safety Officer with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

What is your current job in the Engineering Directorate?

The Environmental & Field Testing Branch is responsible for environmental testing, including pressure testing, vibration testing, temperature testing, fog testing, etc., to determine how various equipment, filters and materials will perform under extreme conditions. Our test chambers can simulate various environmental scenarios and conditions encountered by the Warfighter in the field. As Branch Chief, I consider myself a “working facilitator” for our team’s operation. Although I serve in a supervisory capacity, I enjoy being hands-on and assisting the team with projects. I also serve as a liaison assisting Division Chief Eugene Vickers and Associate Director Ron Pojunas in helping the branch to acquire new customers.

Tell us about your service in the Army National Guard.

Growing up, I always enjoyed military movies and TV shows and dreamed of flying helicopters. Initially I joined the Air National Guard working as a sheet metal mechanic on A-10s. The National Guard was a means of supporting myself through college, and it has been a huge part of my life ever since. I have served in the National Guard for 24 years; most of those years have been in the Army National Guard. My tenure in the Army National Guard has been in aviation as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, except for the one-year waiting period prior to flight school. I am currently stationed with the Alpha Company 2/104th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB) in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard located in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. What some folks may not know about me is that I also served as a Deputy U.S. Marshall for two years in Washington, D.C. ECBC has supported me as a Soldier and civilian employee through the course of two deployments to Iraq (in 2003 and 2009), a recent deployment to Afghanistan (in 2013), and multiple military training schools and other missions and commitments. With a background in chem-bio, I was able to serve as an assistant to the Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) officer during my deployment to Iraq in 2003.

What kind of perspectives do you bring to your work at ECBC by also being a Soldier?

From the perspective of being both a scientist and a Soldier, I am able to harmonize the research and end user sides. This perspective is unique and advantageous simply by being able to explain the Army’s needs to the scientists and by answering any technical questions about protective equipment for the Soldier. It is essential that Soldiers have confidence in their equipment. ECBC’s capability of the rapid-fielding of chem-bio defense equipment and technologies is impressive to Soldiers; they trust the quality and safety of the equipment provided by the Center. Also beneficial is my experience of working with certain equipment used in theater. If there is a piece of equipment that didn’t work well, I can explain what occurred to scientists and researchers so that improvements can be made.

What are your other hobbies outside of work and the Guard?

Besides work and the National Guard, I also spend a lot of time in school. I am grateful to both ECBC and the National Guard for supporting my education, including my Master’s degree in Environmental Policy & Management and my current pursuit of a Ph.D. in Engineering Management. Perhaps when I am finished with school I will finally have a chance to renew one of my favorite hobbies of all time – riding motorcycles!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ECBC Employee Spotlight: Julie Renner, JUPITR Scientist

Julie Renner, an analytical toxicologist at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, has always enjoyed traveling and experiencing new cultures. Her most recent developmental assignment in the Republic of Korea (ROK) supporting the Joint United States Forces Korea (USFK) Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition advanced technology demonstration (JUPITR ATD), allowed her to expand her chemical and biological defense knowledge while learning about a different country. JUPITR ATD is a program led by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO) and supported by ECBC, to establish biological surveillance capabilities to the Korean Peninsula through four thrust areas.

JUPITR is unique in that it sends ECBC and Public Health Command (PHC) researchers to South Korea to work alongside USFK representatives to improve their laboratory capabilities. Renner was one of ten ECBC scientists who made the journey so far, and one of two who have completed more than one rotation. Now, Renner shares some of her experiences in this role and how this assignment will shape her future at ECBC and with the Department of Defense in general..

What is your educational background, and how did you get started at ECBC?

I graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2003 with Bachelor’s Degrees in biology and chemistry. After graduation, I really didn’t know exactly what type of work I wanted to pursue. While I was in college, I worked a seasonal job at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Remediation, following graduation I returned there. One day, I came across a job posting for a contractor position with ECBC’s analytical toxicology team. It sounded intriguing and after doing a little research, I realized how important ECBC’s work is to the nation, so I applied. The interview went well and in November 2003, I was offered a position by Geo-Centers, Inc. as a Scientist 1. I’ve worked with ECBC ever since eventually making the move from contractor to government employee. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work for both the analytical toxicology and operational toxicology teams in different facets. I completed University of Florida’s online masters program in forensic toxicology in 2007, with the help of my previous company.

How did you initially get involved with JUPITR?

I first heard about JUPITR when Peter Emanuel [JUPITR Program lead] sent out a mass invitation to an informational meeting about the JUPITR ATD in Korea. I love traveling and am always looking for opportunities to learn so, it piqued my interest. Initially, I simply planned to attend the meeting to learn more information, but at the end of the meeting, Peter asked for volunteers to go to Korea, and I found myself signing up. I realized what an amazing developmental assignment this was and what an amazing opportunity this program would give me, so I did not hesitate to participate.

Why did you participate in two rotations? How did your first time there differ from the second?

I originally volunteered to go to ROK for two months, but my first rotation was only a month long. In that month, I had fallen in love with the job and Korea itself, so when I returned to the U.S., I had made sure to let everyone know that I was available to go back if they needed me. As it turned out, they did need me to return and I gladly accepted the opportunity. Returning to Korea gave me an opportunity to re-engage with some of the projects I started during my first rotation. My first rotation went by quickly and much of that time in the beginning was spent acclimating to my surroundings, learning local policies/procedures, and forming relationships with our contacts and lab/military personnel. On my second rotation with all of the adjustments out of the way, I could focus on the primary goal of the project: to improve the capability of USFK to respond to biological events.
Additionally, I think the Army and Air Force appreciated the continuity in personnel. Since it does take a while for scientists to get acclimated and build relationships, I think it provided them with relief to have someone who could jump in and be dedicated to the actual project work.

What were you responsible for while you were in Korea?

I worked with Michelle Ziemski, an ECBC scientist, to upgrade the Biological Identification Capability Laboratory at the Yongsan Airbase lab to Biological Safety level-2 (BSL-2) standards. BSL-2 allows the lab to safely accommodate the receipt and analysis of biologically hazardous environmental samples. This process included physical upgrades as well as policy and procedural changes, such as a concept of operations. In addition to establishing a BSL-2, we also demonstrated new laboratory instrumentation to both USFK and ROK personnel. These new laboratory capabilities will give the USFK/8th Army Surgeon the power to make informed decisions based on results obtained locally as opposed to depending entirely on CONUS support. In the past the lab would have to send samples back to the US for analysis which takes a lot of time and resources. By setting up the instrumentation there in Korea, the soldiers can analyze these samples on their own and in a timely manner.

How has your experience with JUPITR differed from your experience with other projects while at ECBC or elsewhere?

ECBC really has done and continues to do outstanding work. Recently, ECBC and JPEO have made history by assisting with destroying Syria’s chemical stockpile by creating the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, placing it on the Cape Ray and sending personnel on the Cape Ray to operate the machinery. Our role in supporting JUPITR through developing subject-matter experts and sending them to Korea to fulfill a critical biological surveillance mission is no less significant. This project will have a huge impact on the Korean peninsula and within the biosurveillance world. For all of my years at ECBC, I have always recognized ECBC’s significance to the Department of Defense, but I have never had the opportunity to be a part of something so large-scale or highly visible until now. The JUPITR ATD has a tangible and impactful end-result: an improved bio-surveillance capability on the peninsula. I am honored to be a part of it all.

How have you seen the USFK positively affected by the work done with JUPITR?

Each day, we are significantly improving the capability of the USFK to respond to biological events. By bringing these new laboratory capabilities and our subject-matter expertise to the ROK, the USFK/8th Army Surgeon can rely on local USFK analyses rather than depending entirely on continental United States support. We have already successfully analyzed samples in the BICS laboratories as part of peninsula - wide exercises. We have also been able to bring USFK assets together by coordinating with Army and Air Force personnel.

What was the biggest highlight of working with JUPITR?

I have experienced so many amazing things working with JUPITR. A big highlight for me was when we gave an instrument demonstration to two groups of ROK soldiers and civilians. They did not understand English, so we worked with a translator to give our presentation, which was challenging. Despite the language barrier, they were wonderful to work with. It was neat to pause, let the translator translate what we had just explained, and then see all of the participants’ faces excitedly nod as they understood. Michelle and I received a commander’s coin from one of the ROK colonels for our efforts. Overall, my biggest highlight was just getting to experience all that Korea has to offer. It is truly an amazing place.

What has your day-to-day been like since returning to the States?

Currently, I am back to my previous job, with the operational toxicology team. I write tech reports and work on a team that utilizes a large-scale glove box for toxicological studies. I also assist other members of the operational toxicology team who are working on personal protection equipment (PPE) studies and human estimate studies for chemical agents. Even though I technically do not work for JUPITR currently, I still participate in weekly telecons for JUPITR’s Biological Identification Capability Sets working group and keep in touch with team members who are still in Korea.

How will you incorporate what you’ve learned in Korea to your work at Edgewood?

While the job I performed in Korea is very different from my job in Edgewood, there are many things I have learned that can be incorporated into my current position. I now have a better understanding of the world of biological threats and toxins; the more I understand about any CBRNE threats, the better. I’ve learned that ECBC is so much more than just the chemical warfare agents I happen to study. Aside from science skills, I feel like this rotation has helped me become a more effective communicator (especially when there is a language barrier), learn how to overcome unforeseen challenges, and how to work with new people.

What are your hobbies?

My passion is playing volleyball. I also have an interest in photography. I was able to sharpen my skills a bit while in Korea, I’m still a novice, but I think I got some pretty good shots.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

ECBC Employee Spotlight: COL Debra Daniels

An Employee Spotlight on COL Debra Daniels, ECBC Military Deputy, Army Soldier, and artist.

Who or what inspired you to have a career in the military?

My father was in the Army, so I was raised with that sense of pride and service. I received a scholarship through an Army ROTC program and intended to serve for a few years – but here I am in my 26th year, still with the same sense of pride and service that I had at the beginning of my career.

What is your role as Military Deputy to the ECBC Director?

As the Military Deputy, one of my main duties is to articulate how the Center supports the Warfighter to sustain, survive and win in the CBRNE world. It is important to translate the Soldiers’ needs and communicate those to the engineers and scientists as they develop the products and solutions that prepare Soldiers for CBRNE missions.

How do you stay connected to the Warfighters?

By communicating to the Army what ECBC does for the Soldier – and that the Center does is more than just protective masks! It includes filters, decon kits and other equipment that the Soldier might not need to reach for every day in the field, but by explaining the breadth and depth of expertise of the scientists and engineers who work here to ensure the Soldiers understand that when they do need to reach for protective equipment, they can do so with confidence that they are protected.

What attracted you to this position?

On my last deployment to Afghanistan, I was looking for a position in the Washington, D.C. area when I returned. This position was on the list of possible assignment. While reviewing the assignment list, since I had never heard of ECBC, I discussed this position with peers and even subordinates and received words of caution and concern based on ECBC’s mission. I took this as an opportunity to work in a new area and also as a good sign that there must be very effective personnel with the safety protocols in place based on the mission; and of course, I found this to be true since my arrival. The strong emphasis on safety has helped the Center maintain the nation’s trust as it handles such hazardous and deadly materiel.

Do you have any advice for young women who are early in their careers?

Don’t listen to the naysayers – follow your passion and be sure to research and understand what it takes to succeed in that career field. Seek out a mentor whose career you admire and ask them how they became successful.

What has been the most challenging part of being a female in a male-dominated field?

I sometimes find that people can be more challenging than the Army’s mission; I thrive when people discourage me. I am proud to say that the Army provides the same standards for both male and female Soldiers with clear standards expected in each career field. The criteria for promotion in the Army are based on your skill, overall manner of performance and needs of the Army. I have succeeded not based on gender but on training, and performance that led to positions of increasing responsibility (and discouragement). In my first assignment, I was a Platoon Leader in the 18th Engineer Brigade in Germany; I was in charge of a 40-person platoon that was all male. I was one of several female officers assigned to the unit for the first time, making it a time of great change for the Corps of Engineers. My Platoon Sergeant, SFC Jeffery Kiper, was emphatic that I was thoroughly trained to be a platoon leader and knew everything about the Soldiers, the engineer equipment, our construction mission and the Army; he ensured that I was trained and expected me to be the best platoon leader in the battalion, regardless of my gender, and I was. He was aware of the challenges facing me, but focused on overcoming gender and race distractions by training and preparing me to ensure I was competent, confident and capable to handle any challenge.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I have many “relaxation” hobbies – I love to draw and paint, and I’m also an avid amateur photographer. I also enjoy traveling and reading novels, especially detective mysteries.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Matrixed Employees: Providing Valuable Technical Expertise, Direct Linkage to the Customer and Critical Support to the Warfighter

Matrixed employees make up approximately one-third of the ECBC Engineering Directorate’s workforce and play a valuable role as subject matter experts and liaisons to the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD) and Project Managers for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance (JPM-NBC CA), Protection (JPM-P), Elimination (JPM-E), Medical Countermeasure Systems (JPM-MCS), Guardian (JPM-Guardian), and Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPM-RN). Their skills and experience in the areas of engineering, science, technology, logistics and business are an asset to both the PMs and the Directorate. “Matrixed employees bring a lot of work back into ECBC,” said Randy Laye, Deputy Director of Engineering. “They are not only demonstrating Engineering’s core competencies, but they also play an invaluable role as a linkage to our customers, their programs and their needs.”

Here, six matrixed employees share their contributions and experiences, including the benefits and challenges of being matrixed.

Luke Fallon, Program Analyst, JPM-NBC CA

“I am currently on a developmental assignment with JPEO-CBD Headquarters in the Business Operations shop in support of Army-funded programs and efforts. This opportunity to work in the acquisition field is a benefit of being a matrixed employee. The acquisition field offers participation in an array of programs that provide a diverse experience in both research and development and procurement.

“An exciting project I have worked on as a matrixed employee was an effort to field capabilities to the Civil Support Teams (CSTs). This project allowed me to interact with a range of personnel, from the Warfighters assigned to the individual CSTs to members of the National Guard Bureau. This interaction gave me an understanding of the range of requirements and needs we meet through ECBC and the JPMs.

“My connection with the Engineering Directorate has been in conjunction with the Dismounted Reconnaissance Joint Urgent Operational Need System (DR JUONS). The chance to interface with the Advance Design and Manufacturing (ADM) Division to facilitate the fielding of an interim solution in parallel with the development of the program of record (Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets Kits and Outfits (DR SKO)), has given me great appreciation for the capabilities of the Engineering Directorate.”

Nicole Goetze, Chemical Engineer, JPEO-CBD

“I serve as a chemical engineer on the Product Support Manager for the Joint Portfolio (PSM-JP) team. Currently, I both lead and participate in initiatives that work towards accomplishing the PSM-JP vision of balancing affordability and readiness for the Warfighter from a Chemical Biological Defense Program (CBDP) enterprise perspective. This role involves developing strategies and corresponding plans of action for implementation of those strategies, participating on multiple integrated product teams to provide input and expertise from the PSM-JP perspective, and coordinating with subject matter experts from the JPMs, ECBC and other organizations as needed.

“I began my career with the Engineering Directorate, and although I’m matrixed to a new organization now, I like that I still have a connection to ECBC. Additionally, I like the different perspective that being a matrixed employee allows me to have. For instance, rather than being purely customer-focused, I am now exposed to working with system stakeholders and have the opportunity to collaborate with teams at a broader level. It can also be challenging to work as part of an enterprise. The CBDP enterprise encompasses multiple stakeholders. Achieving collaboration between all of them requires a delicate balance in order to meet everyone’s expectations.”

Anne Hise, Operations Manager, JPM-NBC CA

“In 2008, I joined the Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets, Kits and Outfits (DR SKO) Program as the lead systems engineer. The program completely revolutionizes how the Services complete their missions by allowing them to safely conduct reconnaissance in confined and enclosed spaces. When I joined the team, the contract has just been awarded and there were no approved requirements, yet all Services wanted a system immediately. The program just successfully completed a Full Rate Production Decision in March 2014 and fieldings are set to begin this summer. Currently I am serving as the Operations Manager for the organization. The position began as a developmental assignment, and after six months, became permanent. My main duties include coordinating and answering all internal and external taskers, as well as all internal and external documents staffing, review and approvals; coordination of weekly staff meetings; and operational support for facilities, purchasing, business processes, media and information technology.

“As a matrixed employee, I enjoy the flexibility to grow and enhance my career by moving in and around ECBC and their partner organizations, while still being an ECBC employee. It has allowed me to explore opportunities without the fears that come with moving from job to job or company to company. But it does take work on my part to stay connected with ECBC. I do that through networking and building relationships with people at ECBC as well as with the JPM.”

Elaine M. Stewart-Craig, Strategic Planner, JPEO-CBD

“ “As a strategic planner, I am involved in both assessing where the JPEO is today and planning how to get to where it wants to be in the future. I work with organizational representatives from each of the JPMs, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Joint Science and Technology Office (DTRA-JSTO), and the Joint Requirements Office (JRO) to better align the overall CBDP goals and JPEO programs to focus on the Warfighters’ priorities.

“Being matrixed to the JPEO-CBD and working with the other organizations within the CBDP allows me to see the big picture of where the CBDP is focused, which directly impacts the work at ECBC. For example, I am currently working on a materiel solution capability assessment that could impact how the entire CBDP plans for future programs. The intent of the assessment is to provide JPEO management insight into where our current equipment and development programs are addressing priorities and where we may need to make future investments.

“There are some administrative challenges to being a matrixed employee. ECBC is my home organization and I am responsible to ECBC for meeting training requirements, completing performance objectives and appraisals and addressing additional suspenses as needed. However, the JPEO sometimes has different requirements and timetables which I must also adhere to.”

J. Allen Swim, Test & Evaluation Engineer, Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection (JECP), JPM-P

“I came to the Engineering Directorate from industry in 2002 as an experienced engineer. Since then, I have participated in the Leadership Cohort, mentoring programs and also led a Balanced Score Card initiative for leadership development. In addition, I have worked in three different PM organizations under the JPEO-CBD and PEO-Ground Combat Systems (GCS). With all of these experiences, I have had the opportunity to learn about ECBC’s core competencies. In my current position, I feel better connected to the Engineering Directorate than in the past and I am able to speak with my Division Chief on a daily basis.

“Right now, I support Product Verification Testing (PVT) testing for the Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection (JECP) project by assisting in test site location, test plan preparation, and test execution and oversight. Support includes traveling to the test sites as needed throughout test events to oversee systems during testing. While I was matrixed to the PEO-GCS, I served as the CBRN engineer for the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCB) program as an expert in protection, detection, decontamination, and contamination survivability. This required an understanding of how all of the JPEO-CBD portfolio could be integrated onto a ground combat vehicle, and the ability to provide the necessary technical information to support vehicle development. It is hugely rewarding to contribute to an acquisition program that directly benefits the Warfighter.”

Michael Trzeciak, Director, Engineering and Acquisition, JPM-G

“I have an incredibly challenging and rewarding job representing the Joint Project Manager-Guardian (JPM-G) and providing acquisition leadership and guidance to three Joint Product Directors that span the mission space of Force Protection, Emergency Management and CBRNE Response. This mission space is so broad and diverse that it offers JPM-G a wide range of opportunities to provide the Warfighter with unique and critically-needed capabilities at an extremely fast pace. The position pushes me to constantly learn and grow throughout the Chemical and Biological Defense and Force Protection enterprises. I identify, cultivate and lead JPM-G efforts to build coalitions and partnerships in order to drive government efficiency and build future business opportunities with our Joint services and government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

“As a matrixed employee, I represent both the JPEO-CBD and ECBC, and facilitate awareness and understanding of each other’s needs while sharing and keeping the lines of communication open. Being matrixed, I have the advantage to reach out to two different organizations for guidance and mentorship and am able to have a much broader impact throughout the community. Both organizations consider me a key member of their team and allow me opportunities to professionally excel while providing world-class support to the Warfighter.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Employee Spotlight: Ryan Kostick

This month’s ECBC Spotlight is on Ryan Kostick, Program Analyst, JPEO Biosurveillance Management Office.

What attracted you to working for the Army?

One of the biggest draws to working for the Army and government was the opportunity to explore various career paths. The willingness of the ECBC organization to rotate personnel and allow them to explore alternate teams and positions was an attractive feature because it felt like the organization wanted to keep their personnel satisfied and place people in environments where they may thrive. Working for the Army has afforded me the opportunity to travel the world, to places I’d never visit otherwise. Working for the Army and traveling to military installations across the world opened my eyes to just how critical the work done by scientists and engineers in the DoD is.

What are the benefits of being a matrixed employee?

Being a matrixed employee introduces the practices and organizational construct of an outside organization. Seeing the organization’s business and management structure has helped provide a comparison to my previous experience with ECBC and has helped formulate my opinion on the different approaches and practices. Networking is also one of the largest benefits of a matrixed employee. My current role has afforded the chance to work with people outside of engineering and more focused on business practices, contracting and program management. Working with and having the reachback to these people will be beneficial later as I progress through my career.

What are the challenges of being a matrixed employee?

While being a matrixed employee, I have found it hard to interact with the Directorate leadership on a frequent basis compared to the previous opportunities to interact on a daily basis. Prior to moving to the matrix position it was fairly easy to discuss current projects, seek advice while struggling and to continue building on mentor/mentee relationships.

What is the most exciting project you have worked on as a matrixed employee?

I’m currently focused on the development of a “Demonstration Model” that is closely related to the traditional Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) Model. This model is an endeavor by the JPEO with the intent to accelerate acquisition and delivery of capability to the warfighter. This effort has the potential to have long-lasting effects on the business model of the JPEO and expediently fill capability gaps where they may exist.

What do you feel has been your biggest success in your career so far?

I consider my biggest success in my career so far to be a completed effort early in my career. While working with the Fixed Site Collective Protection Team, I led an effort to provide support at a military installation OCONUS. The effort required tracking and managing facility information, inspection records, conducting and certifying facilities, and training contractors at the installation on Collective Protection installation and protection to provide the installation an enduring capability. This effort pushed me past my comfort level in project management and provided the confidence and skills to tackle unfamiliar projects and endeavors.

What are your hobbies/activities outside of work?

I still play soccer in a few men’s leagues and I have begun working with electronics and circuitry for home DIY projects that utilize computer programming and physical hardware such as sensors to interact with the environment (light, temperature, motion, etc.).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Northeastern Maryland Technology Council recognizes ECBC leader, mentor in STEM education

The Northeastern Maryland Technology Council (NMTC) honored professionals for their contributions to the advancement of education and technology in northeastern Maryland during its 2014 Visionary Awards Gala at Richlin Ballroom in Edgewood, Md., on Feb. 27.

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s (ECBC) Suzanne Milchling and Suzanne Procell were both recognized for their work supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives in Harford and Cecil counties by the NMTC.

More than 300 leaders in industry, government, non-profit and education arenas attended the evening event. “We are honoring remarkable people who are playing key roles in moving our region forward in the areas of education and technology,” said NMTC Board President Michael Parker. “These are individuals who selflessly donate their time and talents to make a difference in their community.”

Milchling, ECBC’s director of program integration, was presented with NMTC’s Leader Award for playing a critical role in expanding innovative STEM initiatives that engage students and teacher in organizations at Aberdeen Proving Ground. ECBC Quality Manager Procell received her Mentor Award for founding, formalizing and coordinating the Kids & Chemistry program that teaches hands-on chemistry concepts to hundreds of fifth grade students each year in the area.

“In one way or another all of our futures are impacted by the areas of science, technology, engineering and math,” Milchling said. “It only makes sense for me - for us - to invest our time, our money, our energy into developing the future of our country. It’s very rewarding for me as a scientist and a parent to share my passion for science and impact it can make.” 

Research laboratories like ECBC require critical thinkers trained in STEM fields to fulfill their missions. ECBC is the nation’s principal research and development center for chemical and biological defense. Since nearly half of the Center’s employees will be eligible to retire in the next ten years, Milchling and Procell have worked diligently in the community to ignite students’ interest in STEM fields. The Center will need scientists and engineers to join their ranks armed with fresh, innovative ideas.

ECBC Director Joseph Wienand shared that ECBC was able to significantly advance STEM education by “saying yes” to a structured, multi-faceted educational outreach program that encompasses career exploration, curriculum development, guest lecturing, mentoring, project judging, scientist-in-the-classroom activities, STEM learning modules, summer camp support, teacher professional development and tours.

“By investing in these young minds, we are investing in the future of the ECBC workforce," Wienand said. "When ECBC forms partnerships with organizations that also see the value of investing in the local communities, it creates one more bond solidifying the Center’s ties to our neighbors."

Five of the eleven NMTC honorees, including Milchling and Procell, were from Aberdeen Proving Ground. Gary Martin, acting director of the Communications-Electronics Command, received the visionary award. Dr. Robert Lieb, Ph.D., research physicist retired from the Army Research Laboratory received a Mentor Award, and Carmen Kifer, a chemical engineer with the Chemical Materials Activity, was recognized as a rising star.

Last year the Visionary Awards Academy presented Wienand with the Leader Award and ECBC’s now retired Program Manager for Community and Educational Outreach Mary Doak with the Innovator Award.

Please click on this link to view additional photos of ECBC’s participation in the 2014 NMTC Visionary Awards:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

FDHS Scientists and Engineers Depart for International Waters aboard the Cape Ray

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The MV Cape Ray deployed on Jan. 27 from Portsmouth, VA. This departure marks another milestone for the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) team supporting the joint OPCW/UN mission to destroy Syria’s stockpile of chemical agent.

Earlier this month, ECBC Director Joseph Wienand had the opportunity to speak with journalists from the Defense Media Activity (DMA), a Department of Defense hub for glob al armed forces news. Several news stories have resulted from the media engagement, which informed hundreds of thousands of warfighters around the globe today of the work that dedicated people in the chem-bio world do to keep them safe.  

“Heroes at home, supporting heroes abroad,” is how Mr. Wienand put it, speaking of the scientists, engineers, researchers and others working on behalf of warfighters. “Chemists, engineers, plant operators, safety professionals and others bring hundreds of years of experience in safely handling hazardous material 24/7.”
On Jan. 10, journalists from DMA, Ft. Meade, Md. interviewed Mr. Wienand and Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense, Mr. Carmen Spencer. ECBC communicators arranged for interviews at Edgewood, APG, with the global DoD media team, pegged to the coming use of the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System (FDHS) in destroying Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles.

DMA is the government organization responsible for hosting Army Times, Stars and Stripes, the Pentagon Channel, Armed Forces Network News and many other broadcast, web and print news services.

The initial news products from the interviews were scheduled to be seen and read in approximately 170 nations, on 78 deployed Navy vessels, and on the Pentagon Channel and its nationwide cable and satellite TV presence.

With sea trials completed and installation of the FDHS finalized, the MV Cape Ray has been equipped to store, manage and destroy chemical material in a safe and environmentally compliant manner. The FDHS, engineered and constructed at ECBC, was developed with the Pentagon’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD.)
 Mr. Spencer described the intense six-month development process that produced the FDHS.

“Without a close collaboration with ECBC, this mission could not be accomplished, Mr. Spencer said.  “We’re jointly working to make the world a safer place,” Mr. Spencer said. “It’s a growth business and that’s not always a good thing,” he said. “But (soon) there’s one less nation on earth that possesses chemical weapons,” he said.
Mr. Wienand saluted the civilian experts who wanted to become, and became, a part of FDHS’s first international mission.  Wienand cited their dedication and patriotism, as well as their passion for what for others might consider work that is too dangerous to do.

He related to DMA’s journalists the story of one ECBC engineer, a former soldier, who told him, “9-11 made me mad. That’s why I’m here.” 
He ended with the thoughts from another ECBC employee.

Asked by Mr. Wienand why he wanted to be part of the FHDS mission, he said, “This is a part of history. We want to be a part of it.”
To read and hear more about ECBC’s role in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, check out the following DMA stories: | Safety top priority on chem-demil ship, officials say

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Coffee with Colleagues Showcases Collaborative Efforts at ECBC

ABERDERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md.On Dec. 12, CBARR showcased the results from its 219-funded project at the fourth annual Coffee with Colleagues event hosted by ECBC’s BioSciences Division in the Research and Technology Directorate. The Rapid Detect-Identify-Decontamination Kit was one of 60 posters highlighting ongoing research and development efforts across the Center and gave colleagues a chance to share their work and expertise in an informal setting.

The Rapid Detect-Identity-Decontaminate Kit was designed for the decontamination of suspected areas where spore-forming bacteria may be present inside a military or commercial aircraft. It contains hand-held detector assays, personnel protective gear and decontamination materials. ECBC utilized its own resources to test the effective-ness of the kit, including test beds and biological decontamination methodologies, C-130 cargo aircrafts and barcoded spore technology. Conceptual model design and animation was also used for the kit prototype, which offers a developing solution for the hazard mitigation arena.

“Our goal was to detect a spore contaminant in a suspected area, identify its presence using hand-held assays, decontaminate the areas using a surface decontaminating foam and clear the area of the contaminant after the decontamination process,” said Debbie Menking, project manager. “As a result of the testing, we achieved what we set out to do by demonstrating proof-of-concept for a novel hazard mitigation kit that detects-identifies and decontaminates biological contaminants in aircraft interiors. Moving forward, we recommend replacing the hand-held assays with a commercial-off-the-shelf electro-chemical detector that will improve assay sensitivity.”

The concept for the Rapid Detect-Identify-Decontaminate Kit was the result of a previous multi-directorate collaboration between Menking and Sofi Ibrahim, Ph.D., a microbiologist who conducted decontamination biological efficacy assessments at ECBC for the Joint Project Manager-Protection. Now, the methodologies and success from that project have grown into another cross-directorate opportunity that explored decontamination efficacy inside aircraft.

“Leveraging momentum from the decon testing in order to take it to the next level was our goal. The Section 219 funding provided the means to drive the development of the proposed kit using tri-directorate assets to explore how effective a Detect-Identify-Decontaminate process could work against biological agent hazards inside an aircraft,” Menking said.

Section 219 funding originated from the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which allows military and government research laboratories to generate revenue as an indirect fee to help finance the overall cost of a given project. The proposed kit was awarded funds from the FY13 ECBC 219 funding. The kit was one of nine ECBC projects that effectively met ECBC’s objective of maintaining awareness of emerging threats and met the required proposal criteria: innovation, collaboration and potential transition to the warfighter.

“It was exciting to experience the vitality and creativity generated as talented scientists and engineers came to the table energized by a common goal,” said Menking. “We brainstormed and fed off each other's ideas to make a better product in the end."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Technical Report on Albania Mission Documents Chem Demil Expertise

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md.A team of CBARR scientists published a technical report this December, officially documenting the work completed last year that assisted the Albanian military in successfully destroying a small stock of chemical warfare agent (CWA), including mustard, sarin and lewisite.
“We set up a laboratory within one of the rooms in the Albanian facility where the agent was stored and outfitted it with glove boxes, analytical instrumentation and personnel decontamination station,” said Brandon Bruey, CBARR chemist. “It was a process of acquiring their chemical inventory and determining what chemicals, supplies and equipment we needed to treat, analyze and destroy the agent. We also verified successful destruction, which was performed in a technically sound, safe and environmentally responsible manner.”
The report, “Analysis and Destruction of Chemical Warfare Agent Samples: Albanian Armed Forces Central Laboratory, Tirana, Albania,” was authored by Bruey, John Schwarz and CBARR Director of Operations Tim Blades. The report summarized destruction statements and supporting analytical data that was also given to the Albanian government as evidence of the safe CWA destruction. Additionally, the operation was reported to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), of which the United States and Albania are member states.
The collaborative effort between CBARR and the Albanian Armed Forces Central Laboratory, Logistics Brigade led to the successful destruction of 11 chemical agents during a two week period in July 2012. The operation in Albania demonstrates CBARR’s ability to provide chemical solutions for customers worldwide as it leads ECBC’s mission of providing CBRNE defense needs in a safe and secure manner.
“I’ve been a CBARR employee since August 2011 and that was my first big trip abroad. It was neat to see how when another country needs help meeting a chemical demilitarization challenge, CBARR is called upon to develop a solution,” said Bruey.
That call came in late 2011 when the U.S. Department of State had been notified by the Albanian government that a small stock of CWA was discovered in the Central Laboratory. According to the technical report, representatives from the Albanian government worked through the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania to supply an inventory of the toxic chemicals to be destroyed. These chemicals were present in relatively small quantities and were reportedly used previously as analytical reference standards for training Albanian soldiers on laboratory operations and specialized detection equipment.
On Nov. 21, 2012, CBARR received a warm letter from U.S. Ambassador to Albania Alexander A. Arvizu, thanking the organization for a successful operation in Tirana. “Thanks to your professionalism and expertise, these hazardous chemicals are no longer a potential danger to the Albanian or American people. I have received profuse thanks from the Ministry of Defense and other Albanian government officials, and wanted to pass on their appreciation as well. Once again, thank you for a job well done!” wrote Arvizu.
Bruey said that he believes the work CBARR does serves a real world importance, no matter the mission. Chemical demilitarization has become increasingly well-known by the general population over the past few months. The chemical weapons attack in Syria last August has led to international efforts by the OPCW to rid the country of its chemical weapons. Destruction of CWA supports the OPCW’s mission to rid the world of such hazards.
“It takes a huge team effort to make these missions happen,” said Bruey. “It’s not just one person and any one group. These projects are successful because there are a lot of people involved in the planning process. We’re just doing our one little piece, but it is kind of cool that our one little piece is something that no one else can do.”
ECBC first supported the Albania chemical weapons elimination program in 2005, in conjunction with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The multi-phase project was conducted over several phases and took 2.5 years to to complete, from assessment to final demolition. More than 16 metric tons of chemical agent stored in 746 canisters and vials were destroyed between Feb. 1, 2007 and July 11, 2007. Destruction facilities were dismantled and ECBC demobilization was completed on Nov. 20, 2007. The effort resulted in more than 52,000 total man-hours from ECBC personnel, who analyzed more than 5,000 liquid and vapor samples.
The safe and successful chemical demilitarization mission was confirmed by the OPCW and Albania became the first nation to completely and verifiably destroy all of its chemical weapons. According to the OPCW website, this disarmament campaign was conducted to fulfill Albania’s obligations under the CWC.