Depot staff and local officials turned out for the hour-long event, as well as ANCA employees who’ve helped to store Anniston’s chemical weapons stockpile since the facility was established in 1995 and incinerator workers who – since 2003 – are responsible for destroying those weapons.
Lt. Col. Willie Flucker took the reins from Lt. Col. Andrew Herbst, who has led the mission since July 2008.
Herbst recently helped to establish a job transition center as a way to help the 140 ANCA employees find work after the storage mission is over. He said leaving Anniston and the mission was “bittersweet.”
“Leaving is tough, but I’m leaving it behind in good hands,” Herbst said in an interview after the ceremony.
Flucker’s role as the ninth ANCA commander is a historic one – he will be the last commander of ANCA before the chemical weapons stockpile is destroyed by the April 2012 deadline required by an international treaty.
And with only 20 percent of the facility’s original stockpile left, ANCA’s storage mission might be over by as early as fall 2011. That means one of Flucker’s main responsibilities will be to ensure all storage employees have jobs or are ready to retire when the facility shuts down.
“It’s a heady time,” Flucker told The Star after the ceremony. “I feel the weight of that on my shoulders.”
Flucker said his goal is to take one day at a time, helping ANCA workers to plot their futures and ensuring the safe storage and transportation of the last mustard-filled munitions.
Mustard agent is all that’s left for ANCA workers to store and for incinerator employees to destroy.
Herbst, who’s served 27 years in the military, said the highlight of his ANCA service was the facility’s hand in the safe destruction of VX agent in December 2008. Now he will be stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C., as the deputy corps chemical officer for the airborne corps.
Flucker, a Detroit native, has lived in the area before. In 1995, he lived in Jacksonville while he was stationed at Fort McClellan. He said he’s excited to be back.
“I am humbled and blessed to be commander here,” he said at the end of his speech.
Contact star staff Writer Cameron Steele at 256-235-3562.