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Waynesboro native receives Army honor

May 21, 2000|By DON AINES

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A Waynesboro native who helped oversee the realignment of Letterkenny Army Depot and other installations in the U.S. Army Materiel Command was recently inducted into the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame.

Lt. Gen. Dennis L. Benchoff, was deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command when he retired in 1998. He was among 11 people inducted into the hall May 11 during a ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

"That was a tough thing to do and it affected a lot of people, but it was the right thing to do," Benchoff said Sunday about the Base Realignment and Closure Commission process that reduced the number of depots from 18 in 1988 to five today. He said reductions in the military following the end of the Cold War meant the United States had too many depots to operate efficiently.

Prior to his last assignment, Benchoff oversaw the 1995 merger of the Depot System Command (DESCOM), which was headquartered at Letterkenny, with the Army's Armament, Munitions and Chemical Command. The commands were reorganized into the Industrial Operations Command in Rock Island, Ill.

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DESCOM employed 525 people at Letterkenny, but Benchoff said realignment cost few people their jobs. "We only had to let about 30 people go because they didn't want to go to Rock Island," said Benchoff, who now lives in Lancaster, Pa., with Barbara, his wife of 38 years.

Benchoff, 60, was born in Waynesboro in 1939. During World War II, the family moved to the Philadelphia area where his father, Floyd, had a defense industry job. His father and mother, Harriet, live in Adams County.

A 1962 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Benchoff has master's degrees in operations research and systems analysis from Michigan State University and economic analysis from New York University.

His commands included the 101st Airborne Division's 20th Chemical Detachment in Vietnam; the 707th Maintenance Battalion at Fort Ord, Calif.; the 59th Ordnance Brigade in Germany; and the Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas, before his assignment with the Industrial Operations Command.

Downsizing the depots was one of the two major missions in his career, he said. With the 59th Ordnance Brigade in 1990, Benchoff was in charge of the removal and destruction of the Army's chemical weapons stockpiles in Europe.

The Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame credited Benchoff with enhancing the Army's logistics system and inventory control; improving the availability of repair parts to units in the field; reorganizing overseas equipment stockpiles for rapid deployment forces; streamlining AMC specifications and standards and orchestrating "the consolidation of several AMC organizations with a minimal loss of capabilities."

"I do a little consulting and decided to go back to school," he said.

He's taking courses at Millersville University for his teaching certificate, he said.

"I thought I'd like to teach high school as a second career," he said.

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