Aging ARL tower at White Sands serves to train warfighters

February 14, 2012

Story Highlights

  • Soldiers honed Warfighting skills while demolishing an unsafe 110-foot tower.
  • A platoon of Soldiers and approximately 6 pounds of C4 explosives safely brought down the tower.
  • A tower belonging to ARL's SLAD that was constructed in the mid 1980's

Soldiers from the 2nd Engineer Battalion, 573rd Clearance Company stationed at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. honed their warfighting skills Jan. 19, 2012 while conducting a demolition mission involving an unsafe 110-foot tower belonging to the Army Research Laboratory.

Once it was determined that the tower needed to be demolished, Gary Giebel, chief of ARL's Experimental Support Group (ESG), Laboratory Operations, at White Sands initiated the action with the 2nd Engineer Battalion and the Installation Command Teams plus the Garrison Director of Public Works (DPW).

"Terry Tolbert, ESG Logistics Lead, and Felicia Chamberlain, ESG Risk Management Lead spearheaded the effort with all stakeholders to set the proper conditions at the tower site for success," Giebel said.

This video shows the demolition of an aging Army Research Laboratory tower at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Jan. 19, 2012. Specialized engineering Soldiers used the event to hone their warfighting skills.

Giebel added that the Soldiers coordinated, planned and rehearsed the mission for over a month culminating in a Go/No Go briefing approved by Shane Cunico, branch chief, Information and Electronic Protection Division, Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate.

Ultimately, a platoon of Soldiers and approximately six pounds of C4 explosives safely brought down the tower.

The tower, belonging to ARL's Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate, was first transported to the (then) OMEW Electro-optic (EO) range in the mid 1980s.

However, it was not immediately erected upright and lay horizontally on its side for about one year. The tower was eventually hoisted by a couple of cranes, and it was positioned at the one kilometer pad site (one kilometer north of building 21620) of the EO range.

The EO range consisted of six pads up to a range of six kilometers. The tower consisted of ten stories with a penthouse being the tenth story. The tower measured 110 feet from the base of the tower to the penthouse roof.

There was a trap door on the ceiling of the penthouse that engineers and scientists used to access the roof and secure tarps, instrumentation and other equipment. Each story had a floor where instrumentation could be set up depending on the requirement of the experiment. There was no elevator although there was an early attempt by a technician to construct a crude hoisting mechanism consisting of small pulleys, rope, and a plywood box to load heavy equipment.

Just hoisting a loaded box took three personnel: one at the penthouse to manually pull the rope on a pulley and two personnel at the base of the tower to guide the loaded box with rope from swinging wildly into each story as it was being pulled up.

A more sophisticated lifting mechanism was professionally installed that included a hand held power switch several years after the tower was hoisted into position. The pulleys were mercifully given back to the technician. To hasten the set up of instrumentation at the penthouse, most of the instrumentation was carried by hand to the top_this took tremendous stamina and strength needless to say.

The tower was mostly used to conduct top view infrared thermal and radiometric measurements of armored vehicles and in some cases, infrared chaff decoys. During one field test, one WSMR range control employee shut down chaff experiments because the El Paso Airport reported that their instrumentation was being jammed by chaff.

Incidentally, the airport was approximately 50 miles from the tower. The chaff was discharged to a height of 60 feet and none of it floated away. It turned out the chaff experiments were not the cause of the jamming.

Instrumentation would be set up in the penthouse for look down measurements either protruding through an open window or on a boardwalk that surrounded the penthouse. The set up of instrumentation on the boardwalk was not for the faint of heart because there was only a three foot hand rail around the perimeter of the penthouse.

Despite the spectacular views the tower offered, diurnal measurements were conducted at the tower so personnel endured high winds, rain, freezing and blazing hot temperatures, pesky visitors, and wildlife.


Last Update / Reviewed: February 14, 2012