Frank Cupp, 85, recently visited the Historical Office at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command to share his memories from when he was assigned to a technical escort unit in the late 1940s. He was met by current and former technical escort soldiers from the 20th Support Command and presented with mementos and appreciative words for his service, but within five minutes of his arrival, it was all business.
"If you'll look at this map in these areas," a chemical engineer said pointing to a map that nearly covered a large conference table, "do you recall which types of munitions were buried in these areas?"
Without hesitation, Cupp responded with names of chemicals and types of weapons for more than an hour, discussing different explosions and trips he had taken as a soldier in a tech. escort unit in 1948 and 1949, with answers to nearly every question asked.
Bill Brankowitz, the senior chemical engineer asking the questions, works for Science Applications International Corporation, commonly known as SAIC, in its homeland protection and preparedness section. As a past deputy project manager for Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project, U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, he's supporting the program with historical research. SAIC is a contractor to Chemical Materials Agency, which manages storage of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. Chemical Materials Agency is destroying most of the chemical weapons stockpile, but also is responsible for destroying non-stockpile chemical warfare materiel such as recovered chemical weapons and chemical samples. The organization is involved in clean-up efforts at Redstone Arsenal, near Huntsville, Ala., where U.S. and captured German chemical agents and surplus chemical munitions and agents were buried after World War II.
Tech escort missions have not changed dramatically through the years. They provide the Department of Defense and other federal agencies with a unique, immediate response capability for chemical and biological warfare material. Their missions include worldwide response for escorting, rendering-safe, packaging, sampling verification, mitigating hazards and identifying weaponized and non-weaponized chemical, biological and other hazardous material.
The workers at the historical office located Cupp from tech escort trip reports that included information on cleanup efforts from more than 60 years ago. After his time in the unit, Cupp left the Army and lived in Harford County, working as a civilian at the Edgewood Area of APG conducting inspections.
"People thought we were nuts," Cupp said, remembering his time as a tech escort handling chemical agent disposals and decontamination. "But the way I looked at it, if I survived the war, I might as well survive this. This would be peanuts."
Cupp, who lives in Pennsylvania about two hours away from APG, initially was reluctant when he got the call asking for assistance, according to his daughter-in-law, Cynthia, who along with Cupp's son, David, accompanied the veteran to APG.
"He had to be convinced the information was not classified anymore," she said.
"You remember very well, and that's been a huge help to us," Brankowitz told Cupp as he was leaving. "Now we know where to track for rockets and what to air monitor for. The more you have to monitor, the more expensive it gets," he later explained.
"He's probably saved us millions," said Kathleen Ciolfi, an RDECOM technical information specialist in historical operations, who was at the interview.
A few days later, Brankowitz received an e-mail from Cynthia Cupp that included a quote from her father-in-law: "This is the first time I have felt like someone really appreciated my service to my country. It's the first time I have been appreciated as a veteran."
She concluded the email with a statement of her own: "You have brought back a light and purpose to his living; something a soldier should never die without. Once a soldier, always a soldier!"
"This was worth doing far above the information we received," Brankowitz said after reading her message.