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Navy engineers received Army awards March 11 for their efforts to protect personnel deployed to destroy Syrian chemical weapons aboard the container ship MV Cape Ray.

Carmen Spencer, Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense, honored 13 Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) engineers with Department of the Army awards during the ceremony on Tuesday.

“What you did is truly historic,” he told the NSWCDD chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) Defense personnel. “Thank you for your tremendous efforts.”

Spencer presented the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service medal to five NSWCDD engineers and the Army Certificate of Achievement to eight engineers.

The citations commended the awardees with achievements that were “invaluable and directly contributed to the success of the installation of collective protection on the MV Cape Ray for the Syrian chemical weapons neutralization mission.”

“The selfless commitment of their time and resources over the holiday period ensures the nation provides a capability that meets all international commitments and makes the world a safer place,” said Spencer.

The story began in early December 2013 when the Defense Threat Reduction Agency issued an urgent request for the installation.

The NSWC Dahlgren-based engineers - responding immediately to integrate the full-time air filtration system into the ship’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system - worked away from their homes and families through weekends and the Christmas holiday.

“This was a total team effort by some top-notch engineers,” said Mike Pompeii, NSWCDD chief CBR defense engineer and project manager for this effort. “We were given 30 to 45 days to complete the work before the ship deployed, and we accomplished that goal. And I can tell you that Cape Ray now has a world-class system for protecting the crew and all the embarked personnel.”

The NSWCDD-designed collective protective systems ensure safe, clean air in all of the ship’s working, living, sleeping, hospital, and office areas for the Cape Ray crew - including Army chemical specialists who will use the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System’s capability to neutralize and dispose of chemical weapons.

“I applaud the herculean efforts of you and your team,” Capt. Rich Dromerhauser, Commander Task Force 64, told Pompeii in an email after the system was fully installed aboard the Cape Ray. “Know that we are truly grateful for what you have done to ensure the safety of all those aboard and mission accomplishment.”

Specifically, the team added collective protection to the ship’s house and temporary deck berthing space. The effort included design, procurement, fabrication, installation, testing, and training of the crew. The system provides the ship’s forces and processing personnel with working locations safe from potential chemical incidents.

They also trained the Cape Ray crew - a mix of 35 civilian mariners, about 64 chemical specialists from the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland, a security team and representatives from U.S. European Command - to operate and maintain the collective protection system.

“I feel comfortable that we will complete this mission safely because of your work on the Cape Ray,” said Spencer as he shared his perspective with the engineers. “The system’s reliability is the big key. I find the simplicity you built into it remarkable.”

The Cape Ray - currently standing ready in Rota, Spain - will receive the chemical materials from a Danish ship at an Italian port before heading out to international waters where the process of destroying those chemical materials will commence.

The Field Deployable Hydrolysis System’s proven hydrolysis technology will be used to neutralize the chemicals at sea in international waters. All waste from the hydrolysis process aboard MV Cape Ray will be safely and properly stored on board until it is disposed of at commercial facilities to be determined by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. No hydrolysis byproducts will be released into the sea or air.

NSWCDD CBR Defense engineers designed the shipboard collective protection system to protect Sailors, critical operations, and equipment within selected areas of a ship, or zones, from CBR contamination when the ship is operating in a contaminated environment. While in the protected zone, personnel do not need to wear protective clothing or masks which impose heat stress and can impact crew members’ performance.

The Department of the Army, Commander’s Award for Civilian Service awardees were: Mike Pompeii, John Garmon, Richard Warder, Kevin Cogley, and Brian Liska.

The Department of the Army, Certificate of Achievement awardees were: Bruce Corso, Walter Dzula, Robert Fitzgerald, Helmer Flores, Brett Meyer, Jonathan Matteson, Matthew Wolski, and James Lee.

The Navy collaborates closely with the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Defense. The NSWCDD CBR Defense Division’s development and acquisition of new shipboard CBR defense equipment comes through the JPEO-CBD.

A Navy leader in CBR Defense, NSWCDD’s CBR Defense Division provides a full complement of capabilities that support the naval warfighter both on land and at sea as well as the joint and Homeland Defense communities.