US Army Secretary Dr. Mark Esper tours Radford Arsenal

Tour includes focus on modernization efforts to reduce waste

RADFORD, Va – A historic first for the Radford Army Ammunition Plant: Secretary of the U.S. Army Dr. Mark Esper toured the arsenal Friday and reviewed its modernization efforts to reduce hazardous waste.

The visit coincided with RAAP’s 78th anniversary of first producing munitions. 

“This is a national asset. It is of strategic importance, not just to the United States Army, but to the United States military because of the products it produces for our country,” Esper said.

Plant commander Lt. Col. James Scott walked the secretary through the installation, including the modernization efforts to replace the open burning ground.

“To give him the confidence of what we do down here in Radford, it was a phenomenal opportunity and a once in-a-career thing that I'll cherish,” Scott said. "We got to introduce the secretary to a 54-year veteran of the plant, and she's still working today, all the way down to some of the newest employees on the line, doing just phenomenal work and taking pride in their work to support the joint warfighter."

Since World War II, the people of the New River Valley who work at the arsenal have supplied the Army with munitions to defend the country.

“What's produced here in one day is a divison's worth of combat power for three days. So that gives you a scope of the relevance of the plant and what it does,” Esper said.

Rep. Morgan Griffith joined Scott and Esper on the tour. He said the secretary's visit is a positive sign of longevity for the New River Valley’s second largest employer.

“Our children and grandchildren will probably still have jobs here in a 100 years,” Griffith said.

What has long been a national treasure and long-standing local employer is also undergoing improvements that will carry the plant into the future.

Millions of dollars are being spent to modernize the plant, drastically reducing emissions. Scott said in 2018 the plant reduced open burning ground waste by 47%.

According to the Commander’s Challenge as laid out by Scott, RAAP’s goal is to reduce open burning ground waste by 50% in 2021.

Since May of 2018, 100% of MK90 grains via open burning ground treatment has been eliminated, and instead RAAP received permit modification approval to saw grains rather than burn them.
Additionally, RAAP has reduced the amount of lead contained in thermally treated material at the open burning ground by 73% from 2017 to 2018.

Esper said that modernization efforts is a big focus to army munitions productions plants across the country.

“We take seriously our commitment to the environment and being good stewards to the land and what the expectations are to the people,” Esper said.

About the Author: