2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: bmbsqd@home.com
Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 09:59:12 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] Camp Shelby UXO Incident

You accurately captured both points; civilians have an easier target to
blame when UXO is involved and National Guard bases are generally easier
to access.

On the first point it is hard to look a mother in the eye and say,
"Don't blame us, we put a sign up!"  But that is basically the only
defense many installation commanders can use in situations like this. 
One issue that occasionally rears its head on the MEF is "institutional
controls" and the concept of securing a UXO site rather than cleaning it
up.  What a wonderful prospect that must be for the DoD; just put a
fence around those live rockets and grenades and pay a security guard
minimum wage to watch it.  If ever there was a cookbook for the UXO
industry this would definitely be the recipe for Disaster.  Fort Ord is
a prime example of a site that many want to put a fence around.  How
long before a kid (like at Camp Shelby) comes along and clims that
fence?  How long before local teenagers start collecting those really
cool "Danger UXO" signs for their bedroom walls?  

What many of these "institutional controllers" probably think is that it
is easier (AND CHEAPER) to put up signs and a few fences at a place like
Camp Shelby and gamble on a kid blowing his face off.  No big deal- just
go to court, settle cheap, and you still come out ahead of the game
compared to magging and flagging!  Then the place sort of creates its
own UXO barrier by word of mouth in the community, right?.  After all,
these institutional controllers probably think, the community will learn
its lesson after the first kid dies and then the signs and the fences
will work even better!  

Well the insitutional controllers are wrong and the first mistake is the
fact that they are guided totally by the bottom line.  Their idea of
going cheap and putting a fence around live UXO is a pathetic way of
protecting society and they should be held personally responsible when a
child dies or is injured.  If their intent is to do this only until the
UXO remediation is completel that is one thing, but the people want to
basically put a fence around the UXO forever or until a third party
comes along and buys it and is then responsible for cleaning it up.  If
the land at Camp Shelby had as high a "dollar per acre" value as Fort
Ord or if it had a huge political machine such as Kaho'olawe, it would
be cleaned up properly.  Let's face it, how many teenagers will be
wandering the crevices and mountains of Kaho'olawe looking for cool
ordnance?  Not many considering it takes a boat or helicopter to get
there.  But we'll gladly spend $400 million to clean that up instead of
putting a fence around it.

Your second point about National Guard bases having a more relaxed
access policy is also correct.  The problem here is that many of these
bases, like Camp Shelby, at one time had a thriving military presence
that totally supported the local community.  Now that the military is
gone the locals have more control over the facility.  Hunting, for
example, is something that puts many people at risk for UXO exposure
every year at military bases (closed and open), but it is also a
money-maker for the base and appeases the locals who want a good place
to hunt.  At Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia (possibly the most heavily UXO
contaminated site in the world), the 57th EOD (Ft. Belvoir) used to
spend four day a year training the civilian hunters on UXO recognition
in case they came across something.  At Fort McCoy, Wisconsin the ranges
were so large there was no way to totally control the access and people
routinely took shortcuts across the range areas or went 4-wheel driving
at night and on weekends.  What these two bases have in common is they
are huge NG and Reserve training facilities with unbelievable tonnages
of ordnance, yet they're controlled by a handful of active duty MP's and
only a larger (not much) squad of civilian security police.  It's Barney
Fife guarding Fort Knox!

Many closed bases, NG or not, have the same problem.  In the Aberdeen
Proving Ground area there are many islands that were formerly used for
the military's testing and experimenting with CWM.  Now these islands
are dump sites for tons of toxic chemicals, contaminated materials and
equioment, and experimental UXO.  Most of these locations have heavy
gates and even an occasional security guard but being an island on the
Chesapeake means that boaters can come ashore at night and on weekends,
and they do.  At Carroll Island, MD we routinely chased off boaters or
people who wanted look around because the skull and crossbomes on the
warning signs made them even more curious.  On one occasion we were in
an area known as the BZ pits (BZ is the Army's version of LSD in a bomb)
when a woman and her child came walking right up to us and asked what we
were doing.  All the signs, warning buoys, nor six large men dressed in
Tyvek and wearing oxygen tanks scared her away!  My point here is that
the community has some responsibilty to not enter these areas, but the
government must operate off the assumption that they will, and take
proper security measures.

The only proper use of insitutional controls is for temporary measures
while the government is coughing up the dollars to do proper UXO
remediation.  The kid at Camp Shelby may still have died, but at least
something would be in the works to clean the place up to make it less
likely that the next one would.

Russell Shattles

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