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We owe it to the testers to make sure military test facilities are as safe as they can be [Editorial]

Aberdeen Proving Ground

Aberdeen Proving Ground is so much a part of the fabric of life in Harford County that it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the reality that it is a military test center where dangerous activities take place every day.

Tragedies like two recent deadly incidents at what is commonly referred to as the Super Pond serve as stark reminders that protecting the nation is dangerous work and the people responsible for testing equipment that ends up on the front lines can be in harm's way every bit as much as those who square off against hostile forces.

Though it pre-dates the BRAC expansion of recent years at APG, the Super Pond is a substantial and relatively new addition to the post's test facilities. Like many of the installation's operational areas, it is, as they say on post, behind the fence. It's a euphemism that reflects the degree to which much testing work is classified.

Because so much of what happens on APG is held at such a high security level, it is easy to forget that so much dangerous equipment is being tested so close to where those of us in the civilian population shop, go to school and work.

Generally, it is that much easier to forget the dangers because deadly incidents are relatively infrequent on post.

In the most recent incidents, investigations are being conducted into what claimed the lives of Diver First Class James Reyher, 28, and Diver Second Class Ryan Harris, 23, last week and George H. Lazzaro Jr., a 41-year-old former Marine working as a civilian engineering technician, on Jan. 30.

It is vital that the causes of the fatalities be found and corrected. While it is not unexpected for people to be harmed or killed in the line of duty at a test facility because testing military equipment is dangerous, such deaths should never become part of what is expected as a matter of course.

In the recent Super Pond tragedies, on the surface it would appear something is dreadfully wrong, simply based on the timing of the fatalities. Is it possible that the second deadly incident could have been prevented, if something had changed after the first? The military's inquiry into the matter should answer this question and, more importantly, find what changes need to be made to prevent further tragedy.

It is important to remember that testing of military equipment is done largely to prevent tragedies from occurring on the battlefield, so as a nation we owe it to the people whose job it is to increase battlefield safety to make their workplaces as safe as is humanly possible.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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