Women’s History Month – Local woman keeps close watch of chemical weapons stockpile
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD – Growing up in Aberdeen, Deseree Harris was surrounded by friends and family who worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Working at APG seemed like a natural step.
Harris began her Army career 12 years ago at the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity (CMA) Emergency Operations Center. As her career progressed and she rose to acting EOC chief, her ambitions grew as well. With extensive training in operational management, emergency management and safety, Harris set her sights on CMA’s Chemical Surety Program.
“The surety world is multifaceted,” Harris said. “Many within the U.S. Army are unsure of what ‘surety’ means. The program is very technical and requires continuous review of its people and processes to ensure compliance.”
The Chemical Surety Program encompasses policies and procedures supporting safe, secure operations of the two remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpiles, which maintain readiness to deliver the munitions to the destruction plants, operated by another organization. CMA manages the final two sites, at Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD), Colorado, and Blue Grass Chemical Activity (BGCA) at Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky.
“Chemical surety ensures we have standards for the security of the chemical weapons and for safety of the personnel working with them, as well as the surrounding communities,” Harris said.
As a chemical surety specialist, Harris manages and oversees the CMA Chemical Surety Program. She provides leadership, direction, planning and assistance to line management, activity staff and site commanders.
Harris also evaluates the organization’s capability to conform to and recognize the unique surety policy and assures compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Harris, who grew up wanting to be a teacher, must visit the storage sites, aiding in reviewing personnel files and procedures while also evaluating their operations.
“While I might not be a teacher now,” she said, “I have the opportunity to teach and train our workforce within CMA.”
Growing within CMA required hard work and perseverance, something Harris wants to shine a light on during Women’s History Month.
“I want to remind women everywhere to own their abilities, knowledge and authority,” she said. “It’s important to learn from your peers and absorb all feedback, both positive and negative. Keep broadening your skill set and do not limit yourself.”
She said she is surrounded by strong, supportive women and men in both her personal and professional life.
“This is not a dog-eat-dog world,” Harris added. “Men and women should all support each other in growth. This is your one life, so own it.”
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