More than half of the operators at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) have experience destroying chemical weapons, including Pueblo’s newest leader. Gary McCloskey led efforts to not only eliminate the largest, most diverse chemical weapons stockpile in the country – he also managed the destruction of the first stockpile site in U.S. history.
McCloskey, who brings decades of chemical demilitarization experience, said he recognizes he’s part of a highly-qualified team.
“The team assembled to execute the project is extremely talented,” said McCloskey. “We will go into operations with 60 percent of our operational workforce having been involved at chemical agent operations at some combination of the seven other facilities which have completed operations and closure.”
At PCAPP, McCloskey will focus on the integration of all efforts necessary for the safe, secure and environmentally compliant destruction of the Pueblo chemical weapons stockpile, associated explosives and waste.
McCloskey is also responsible for developing staff by providing mentoring, developmental assignments, educational and training opportunities. “We have excellent programs which encourage both employee and management involvement in keeping our people safe, and we need to continue to build on this foundation as we transition into agent operations,” McCloskey said.
“While we have legacy facility issues to resolve, our people are ready to start destruction activities and will begin operations at the highest level of readiness in program history,” McCloskey said.
Weapons in the Desert
McCloskey transitioned to Pueblo by way of the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (TOCDF) at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah. In 2013, the facility formally closed upon safely destroying more than 1.1 million munitions and more than 13,600 tons of chemical agent, representing 43 percent of the nation’s original stockpile.
McCloskey was the vice president and general manager of Critical Installation Management of AECOM Management Service Group at the site. While his primary role was managing the Defense Materials, Inc., operations and maintenance contract, McCloskey was also the principal author of the TOCDF mustard agent processing strategy designed to minimize potential emissions.
The Early Years
McCloskey was born in New York and was the son of a sharecropper on a dairy farm. He has a master’s degree in safety engineering from Texas A&M University and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic University in New York.
His journey to PCAPP is not his first connection to Colorado. “In the 1973, ‘74 timeframe, I had some preliminary association with disposal activities taking place at Rocky Mountain Arsenal [Commerce City], working mostly in exposure reporting and investigation,” McCloskey reflected. “After working in the munitions production business for 11 years, I accepted a position at Johnston Atoll.”
Agent on the Island
Located 800 miles southwest of Hawaii, Johnston Atoll was the Army’s first full-scale chemical weapons disposal facility and the first U.S. site to complete its chemical weapons disposal mission.
McCloskey worked as the site project manager for Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS), overseeing systemization, operations and the eventual facility closure. When JACADS finished, McCloskey retired from the government.