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Officials celebrate the conclusion of chemical weapons disposal in central Kentucky

Stu Johnson

It’s been more than three months since history was made at the Blue Grass Army Depot. The last nerve agent rocket among the more than 500 tons of chemical weapons stored in Madison County was destroyed. Officials said a full celebration would come this fall. And so, it did Thursday.

Even before the formal event began, a video containing comments of plant workers welcomed visitors as they took their seats.

“We actually had the privilege and the opportunity to beat swords into plowshares and it’s really our customers are really every human being on the planet….I’m also proud because I’m from here..what it means for our community is huge so I feel special to be a part of it.”

Dignitaries took their place on the riser in front of hundreds in the Armed Forces Reserve Center. The program included music by the 100th Army Band, singing by the Madison Central Choir, and invocation by Richmond Mayor Robert Blythe.

“We come to thank you for the minds that orchestrated be even divine direction as you gave us intellect and gave us ability to perform the necessary tasks, oh God, that brought us to this place,” said Blythe.

More than one speaker acknowledged the four-year effort of the 14 hundred employees who had a role in destroying some of the most dangerous weapons ever known. Among them Michael Abaie (ah-BAY), program executive officer-assembled chemical weapons alternatives.

“I can honestly say that you all met every challenge with dedication, professionalism, and most importantly innovative spirit. And let me tell you we had many challenging issues. But this team stepped up each and every time,” said Abaie.

Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell delivering remarks at the End of Destruction Operations Event 10-11-23
Jeanne Marie Hibberd
Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell delivering remarks at the End of Destruction Operations Event 10-11-23

The keynote address came from Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, who has been recognized for his work in Washington, securing billions of dollars to construct and operate the disposal plant. In his remarks, he talked about Craig Williams who championed the community effort in convincing the Army to drop incineration and implement neutralization to carry out the mission.

 “He spent years pouring over every detail until he became a leading expert on the Depot and its operations. Kentuckians couldn’t have asked for a more effective citizen advocate than Craig,” said McConnell.

 

Craig Williams receives recognition award during the ceremony
Jeanne Marie Hibberd
Craig Williams receives recognition award during the ceremony

Following the ceremony, Craig Williams summed up what are probably many people’s sentiments.

“As the senator mentioned he and I have been at this for almost 40 years and to say that we’re proud of having accomplished this…particularly with no injuries…no environmental degradation to the community…it’s a miraculous effort that’s taken place by all the people you heard about at today’s event. I’m just glad to have been a part of it and I’m so happy and relieved that we’ve accomplished this goal in a safe and successful manner,” said Williams.

 Work continues to destroy residual agents on processed munitions as well as plans for decontaminating the plant and eventually tearing down some facilities.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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