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Army chemical weapons disposal agency plans End of Operations ceremony at APG

TheU.S. ArmyChemical Materials Agency is hosting a ceremony on May 17 to celebrate what it calls the End of Operations.

The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, or CMA, recently marked the end of its stockpile operations, destroying nearly 90 percent of the United States' declared chemical agent stockpile.

Destroying the stockpile of nerve gas and blister agents like mustard safely and on schedule is a major achievement for CMA and its systems contractors, the agency said in a news release.

A formal ceremony recognizing the achievement for CMA and its workforce will be held May 17 at 2 p.m. at the Chemical Demilitarization Training Facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground's Edgewood Area.

The event is open to Aberdeen Proving Ground's workforce.

According to its website, the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency safely stores and destroyed the nation's aging chemical weapons formerly stored at eight sites across the U.S. and on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific. CMA also has the storage mission at the nation's final two stockpile sites in Colorado and Kentucky.

Among the stockpiles successfully disposed of was the mustard agent stored at Edgewood following World War I. Neutralization of the Edgewood mustard agent and destruction of storage canisters was completed in 2006. The facility used has been closed.

Operations to destroy the largest portion of the chemical stockpile, 44 percent, at Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah finished Jan. 21, 2012. Pine Bluff Arsenal, Anniston Army Depot, Umatilla Chemical Depot and Deseret Chemical Depot are currently working on closure activities, according to the CMA website.

CMA's headquarters' management team, as well as scientific, communications and support staff are based at the Edgewood Area of APG.

Greg Mahall, chief of public affairs for CMA, called the end of operations "not a big role changer for Aberdeen Proving Ground."

CMA headquarters has been at APG Edgewood since it was established in 1972, he said, and for a while there was "a portion of [chemical] stockpile stored here."

Mahall added that the headquarters will downsize when "the future mission is completely outlined, but very little should be noticed" by the community.

On a national scale, 90 percent of the 31,500 tons of chemical agent has been destroyed. The remaining 10 percent "rests with another Department of Defense agency," Mahall said, which is also at APG.

In all, five types of chemicals were destroyed — three nerve agents and two blister agents.

GB, also referred to as sarin, was one agent. Mahall explained this was the chemical used a decade ago during a terrorist attack in the subways of Tokyo. VX and a "small amount" of GA, also known as tabun, were also in that group of nerve agents. Tabun, Mahall said, was captured from the Germans in World War II.

Mustard and lewisite were the two blister agents destroyed.

The destroyed chemicals were held at nine storage sites across the country, including Johnston Atoll, a deserted island about 800 miles southwest of Honolulu, and at APG.

The remaining chemicals are held at sites in Richmond, Ky., and Pueblo, Colo.

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