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Civilian Contractors Play Key Role In Arming Troops

Workers put the finishing touches on old bombs at Crane.

Bombs being restored at the Crane Army Ammunition Activity (Adam Pinsker, WFIU/WTIU News)

Nestled in the rolling hills of South-Central Indiana, thousands of Hoosiers are repurposing old bombs and munitions.

“They’re put back in brand new condition, so they are in the exact same condition as a brand new bomb,” says Crane Project Engineer David Peele.

Crane Army Ammunition Activity is housed at the sprawling Naval Surface Warfare Center in Martin County.

Nearly 6,000 workers, most of them civilian contractors, rebuild everything from small shells to 2,000-pound bombs.

Some of them date back to the early 70’s, and their outer shells are corroding.

“The processes that we do here are very similar to making a new bomb, except we are not actually putting the explosives in, the explosives are already in it,” Peele says.

Making a brand new bomb costs between $10,000 and $12,000, compared to just $2,000 to refurbish them.  

“This building has been a huge saving for the taxpayer,” Peele says of the massive warehouse where 2,000 pound bombs were being refurbished.

Once the munitions are repurposed, they’re shipped out to all branches of the military and are used by soldiers on the front lines.

But, not every bomb can be recycled. Workers in an isolated corner of the base are safely burning the inside parts of bombs that cannot be reused.

“We put wood boxes in and light the fire in the morning, and as soon as we put that bag in there, it goes,” says burning supervisor Mickey Wager.

The military officials who oversee the operation say civilian workers play a vital role in supporting all branches of the armed forces, and most of those workers are passionate about what they do.

“I believe I have the best job here," Wager says. “I’ve been doing this for 17 years. I come to work with a smile on my face every day.”

State and federal officials inspect Crane to make sure its bomb decommissioning process is not harming the environment.

 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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