Army boosts forces protecting chemical stockpiles at APG

Aberdeen base among 8 in U.S. used for storage

Terrorism Strikes America

The Nation

September 29, 2001|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

The Army is increasing security at its eight locations nationwide where chemical weapons are stored, including Aberdeen Proving Ground, an Army spokesman said yesterday.

The 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., arrived this week at APG's Edgewood area, said Mickey Morales, spokesman for the Soldier and Biological Chemical Command in Edgewood. Between 100 and 200 soldiers are guarding the restricted, remote Bush River area of the Edgewood peninsula, where 1,623 tons of mustard agent are stockpiled, he said.

"Their mission is to enhance the security of the stockpile," Morales said. "They're not here in response to any imminent threat or danger. There's not a direct threat we've received. It's a precaution."

He added that the division was not called in because of a lack of troops at the installation. "It's not because we lack guards," he said. "The more people you have, the better security you have."

Seven other Army installations in the United States have chemical stockpiles: Bluegrass Army Depot in Kentucky; Anniston Army Depot in Alabama; Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas; Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado; Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon; Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah; and Newport Chemical Depot in Indiana.

The Fort Drum soldiers were called to APG by Gen. John Coburn, head of the Army Materiel Command.

"We'll do everything to store these chemical weapons safely until they're destroyed," Morales said, adding that APG is the Department of Defense's lead organization in protecting against chemical and biological attacks. "The world's chemical weapons experts are at Aberdeen Proving Ground. ... We have more people at Aberdeen who know how to respond to chemical incidents than anywhere in the United States."

The Soldier and Chemical Biological Command's Homeland Defense program also offers expertise and training for local governments and emergency agencies to help them respond to chemical, nuclear and biological attacks.

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