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:

Army.mil | 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.