Tuesday, December 12, 2006

the men who replaced Van Sim and Siddell


He's been called one of the U.S. Army's premier chemical weapons experts, and has worked around the world to disarm rockets, bombs and shells containing some of the world's most toxic substances.

When it comes to handling and defusing weapons of mass destruction, Timothy A. Blades, a 31-year veteran of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, has few peers. "Tim has handled every dangerous and deadly and lethal compound known to man," said Jim Allingham, a retired spokesman for Aberdeen Proving Ground, where the Edgewood center is located.

William E. White, a retired Edgewood chemist, called Blades "an amazing person," as comfortable taking apart a chemical warhead as he is testifying before Congress.

At the Harford County military post, he has helped direct the disposal of tons of obsolete U.S. chemical arms. He and his crews have worked at poison arms depots, dump sites and disposal areas around the world. As a U.N. weapons inspector in the 1990s, he made 42 trips to Iraq.

At Aukheider, near the Iraqi city of Karbala, he drilled mustard gas bombs cooled by ice. He came to admire the resourcefulness of Iraqi weapons scientists. "They made mustard agent in an incredibly elegant way that was so simple," he recalled.

At Kamisiyah in southern Iraq, he supervised the destruction in 131-degree heat of 1,000 sarin-filled rockets that the Iraqis had incompletely burned and abandoned. In the United States, with its strict environmental standards, the project would have taken years and millions of dollars, he said. In Iraq, it took six days, with Blades and his crew working in lightweight protective gear because of the heat.

He has helped destroy stockpiles of aging Soviet chemical weapons in Romania, the Czech Republic and -- in recent months -- Albania.

As deputy director of Edgewood's Chemical Biological Services Directorate, Blades supervises a staff of 244 technicians and weapons experts from a small office in a one-room building, nicknamed "The Condo," on King's Creek in an isolated corner of the base.

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