During an hour-long ceremony at the Anniston Army Depot, Lt. Col. Willie J. Flucker turned the reins over to Jesse Brown III, a civilian who has worked as ANCA’s deputy in charge for the past nine years and will now oversee the agency’s final year and closure operations.
“In many ways, closure has been more challenging than operating,” Brown said, addressing the ANCA employees, depot leaders and Army officials in a speech at the end of the ceremony. He pledged to oversee the end of the organization with safety, efficiency and professionalism in mind.
Since the last of the chemical munitions were destroyed in September 2011, chemical activity employees have been focused on cleaning and inspecting earthen bunkers where the weapons were stored, even as closure proceedings have meant dwindling staff numbers.
Currently, the organization employs about 60 people. But at one point, ANCA had some 160 employees to help with its mission of monitoring and storing the weapons – which began in 1995 – and later, the transportation of those dangerous munitions to the incinerator site for destruction.
Flucker highlighted the success, the safety of ANCA workers over the years.
“What we’ve done here at Anniston is truly historic,” Flucker said. He also talked specifically about the focus of the workforce as the end of their employment at ANCA looms.
“ANCA has experienced more organizational change in the past two years than any time in its history,” Flucker said. That change, the diminishing personnel and resources and the closure mission has been successful, the last Army commander said, “not by chance but by choice.”
Now, Brown is charged with ensuring the rest of those storage bunkers – known as “igloos” – are cleaned of chemical agent before they are turned back over to the depot for use. He’ll also have to ensure all of ANCA’s vehicles, equipment and facilities are ready for transfer back to the depot or for disposal.
At the same time, ANCA’s new civilian leader is tasked with assisting the job search for remaining workers who will not retire at the end of their employment. A pair of federal grants made available to the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce is also helping with those job placements.
Other military commanders who’ve led ANCA over the years have been new to the area, unfamiliar with the depot and had to play catch-up to learn about the organization’s history and current mission.
“I won’t have those barriers to overcome,” said Brown, who has worked at the depot – in one capacity or another – for more than 30 years.
Flucker, a Detroit native, plans to accept a position at the Pentagon following his command at ANCA. At today’s ceremony, Army officials presented Flucker with awards for his service in Anniston.
“You’ve been running things this long,” Flucker told Brown at the end of his speech. “You’ll be just fine at the helm at the end.”
Staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @Csteele_Star.