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22nd Chemical Battalion, in place since WWII, could leave Aberdeen

22nd Chemical Battalion, in place since WWII, could leave Aberdeen
An image of activity by the 22nd Chemical Battalion, which could potentially be leaving APG. (Photo courtesy Aberdeen Proving Ground, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

One longtime Army unit remaining at Aberdeen Proving Ground could be shipping out for good within a year or two, further reducing the dwindling ranks of soldiers on post.

The possibility that the 22nd Chemical Battalion could be leaving the was raised by APG Garrison Commander Col. Gregory McClinton during a recent public meeting on the Army's Joint Land Use Study.

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If it were to happen, the move likely wouldn't be until sometime in 2016, said Karen Holt, the regional BRAC manager, who added the move would not be part of the next base closure and realignment process, that many Harford County officials are concerned about.

Such a move, however, would mean an even further decrease in the military component remaining at APG, which today is about 3 percent, Holt said. County and Army officials say 22,000 civilians and military work at the installation.

The chemical battalion has been based at the post's Edgewood Area since Feb. 1, 1944. Its future has yet to be decided, Walter Ham IV, deputy public affairs officer for the 20th CBRNE Command, explained Wednesday.

"The U.S. Army periodically reviews its force posture to ensure the right forces are in the right places," Ham wrote in an email. "Currently, no decisions have been about moving the 22nd Chemical Battalion."

About 270 soldiers are with the battalion and its three companies on APG's Edgewood area, he said.

The battalion is part of the Army's 20th CBRNE Command and 48th Chemical Brigade, defending against chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats.

The organization's original mission was to escort chemical weapons and materials, Ham said.

Its mission has since changed to conducting site assessments of suspected enemy chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive sites, weapons and materials.

The military population at APG declined after the last BRAC, when the Ordnance Center and School and other military training units were transferred to other installations. During that period, however, several thousands civilian jobs were added from other Army operations that transferred to Aberdeen.

"We are seeing the dynamic of the workforce changing," Holt said. "The soldier plays a critical role in lending input to research, development, testing and evaluation, so from a community standpoint, we want to support the successful mission of APG, but recognize the military population is decreasing as more civilian, science and technical jobs come to APG."

While the post could be losing the chemical battalion, APG in general is poised for growth, Kelly Luster, chief of public affairs for post garrison, said Thursday.

"There is a lot of investment in research, development, testing and evaluation. The mission of APG is so unique. There are things that go on here that don't go in the entire Department of Defense inventory," Luster said. "Because of that, if there were something, APG is well positioned to gain assets, not lose assets."

This article is updated with a corrected spelling of APG Garrison Commander Gregory McClinton's last name.

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