Aberdeen Units Earn Award for Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction

Field Deployable Hydrolysis System A Defense Department team was presented an innovation award last week for developing a mobile chemical weapons killer that has destroyed thousands of tons of deadly Syrian materials.

The all-volunteer team, deploying from the of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense and the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center operated its field deployable hydrolysis systems aboard the roll-on-/roll-off transport vessel MV Cape Ray.

Since July, it has neutralized 581 tons of methylphosphonyl difluoride, or DF, the main precursor of sarin and other nerve agents, and just less than 20 tons of sulfur mustard, a blister agent, the Pentagon on Saturday in announcing the award from CBRN-UK, a British industry association.

The team included 45 Army civilians, though Lloyd Pusey, JPEO-CBD’s product manager for the deployable system, extended credit for mission success to colleagues back in headquarters.

“There were a lot of folks involved from both organizations who were supporting the efforts from Edgewood who deserve an enormous amount of credit,” he said.

The CBRN Innovator of the Year award recognizes work in the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear sector that has a significant impact on advancing CRBN capabilities.

Timothy Blades, director of Edgewood team’s chemical biological application and risk reduction unit, commanded the chemical operations team, said the mission was an international one that involved the UK and other nations.

“The U.K. was very involved and contributed to providing destruction capability for some of the other chemicals involved in the Syrian stockpile,” Blades said. “So we’ve enjoyed a close relationship with the U.K. in this whole endeavor, and it’s very much an honor to be considered a top innovator by them.”

Syria agreed last year to surrender all of its chemical weapons, as well as precursor materials, to international authorities for destruction.

The mission fell to the Army when no nation stepped forward to take possession of the Syrian chemical agents for the purpose of destroying them in their own backyard.

The Aberdeen-based units late last year began adapting and installing two field-deployable hydrolysis units onto the Maritime Administration Ready Reserve ship Cape Ray, sailing with it into the Mediterranean early this year.

The system is designed to mix the chemical agents with heated water, sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite bleach to produce a low-level chemical waste that is subsequently treated to reduce acidity, the Army said in its statement. The waste is then stored in containers for delivery to commercial waste-treatment facilities.

The Cape Ray arrived back in Portsmouth, Virginia, on Sept. 17. The operators from the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center remained on board through Sept. 30 to demobilize and decontaminate equipment before turning the vessel back over to the U.S. Maritime Administration.

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