On 31 July 2001 the U.S. Army Chemical Activity Pacific retired its colors on Johnston Island. The unit’s deactivation marked an end to 30 years of storing and handling chemical weapons stockpiles, and participating in the destruction of those weapons since 1990. Johnston Island, 825 miles southwest of Hawaii, was the only site where soldiers were entirely responsible for the storage, security and transport of the deadly chemical agents. Department of Defense contractors run eight other sites throughout the United States.
The island, only 2½ miles long and a half-mile wide, was home to a military police company and chemical company, along with a headquarters unit. Every soldier assigned to the island during the 30 years chemicals were stored there received special training in handling and emergency responses to chemical agents. The unit safeguarded and disposed of deadly sarin and VX nerve agents and assisted the Johnston Atoll Chemical Disposal System, a contract civilian group assigned to destroy the chemical agents. The two units destroyed more than 400,000 rockets, bombs, projectiles, mortars and mines. Two thousand tons of nerve and blister agent were also destroyed. The last of the chemical stockpile was destroyed in November 2000. There were no incidents or accidents in the unit’s 30-year history.
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