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Letterkenny celebrates $5.5 million 'igloo' rehab

October 26, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - When the ammunition bunkers at Letterkenny Army Depot were built during World War II, most of what was stored there - artillery shells and cartridges - could be loaded and unloaded by hand.

Today's military works with considerably larger pieces of ordnance, one reason that 92 of what Letterkenny Munitions Center workers refer to as "igloos" have been modified for the easier storage of precision munitions, such as the Patriot missile and MLRS (multiple launch rocket system).

The $5.5 million igloo modification project began last year and on Wednesday depot officials and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., cut the ribbon on one of the 10 buildings on which modifications have been completed.

Modifications include replacing the old 4-foot-wide bunker doors with a 10-foot-wide set of double doors. Concrete steps that further hindered access to the bunkers were removed and ramps were built to allow easy entry by vehicles.

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The depot has 902 reinforced concrete, earth-covered igloos on 16,000 acres, Munitions Center Director Edward Averill said. Depot Deputy Commander John Gray said there are plans to modify another 109 bunkers at an additional cost of $6 million, which at this time has not been funded.

"I know one of the reasons I'm here is this is Phase One, and there is a Phase Two, and that requires more money," said Santorum, who is in a tough re-election campaign against Democrat Bob Casey. "I hope I'm in a position to help you in the years to come," he said.

Precision munitions such as missiles are the future of the military and the project will increase the speed and efficiency of handling them, said Col. Todd Smith, commander of the Crane Army Ammunition Activity in Illinois.

"It's a big project because it leads us into the future," Smith said.

Each bunker can hold an "explosive weight" equivalent to 500,000 pounds of TNT, Averill said, adding that the capacity is difficult to define because of the different munitions stored at the depot.

One man can now load or unload missiles and other large munitions from the bunkers. It can take two or three men and two forklifts - one inside and one outside - in those bunkers that have not been modified, Gray said.

Another $5 million project, a munitions off-loading facility, is set to soon begin, Gray said.

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