‘Snake Pit’ gets spruced up at Biggs Army Airfield
Fort Bliss, TX (U.S. Army) — Just north of the Arrival and Departure Airfield Control Group terminal at Biggs Army Airfield lies a desolate tract of land unlike any other at Fort Bliss, affectionately referred to as the “Snake Pit.”
The Snake Pit is near the loading docks of the rail head. It is used for storage by the supply section of the Directorate of Mobilization and Deployment and the Unit Movement Branch.
“The snake pit is comprised of three different sections,” said clean up detail noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Sgt. 1st Class Danny Robinson. “You have the bunkers where they stored the weapons, the connexes for the Unit Movement branch, and there was this area over here,” he said as he motioned to an empty area of desert.
The land had become an unofficial dumping ground for abandoned vehicles, unwanted and inoperable equipment and trash left over the past decade.
DoMaD supply section’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Master Sgt. Craig Walker, had a detail of Soldiers tasked to clean the snake pit a few times a week over the past year to try to eradicate the unsightly mess. When he took on the assignment, the area had around 25 abandoned vehicles. He unloaded nine of them to the Defense Logistics Agency.
“It’s a slow process,” said Walker.
The bunkers at the snake pit were previously used to store weapons for National Guard and Reserve units that mobilized through Fort Bliss before a deployment. The area came under scrutiny recently after reports of radioactive material buried there over forty years ago.
The situation brought attention to the entire area, sparking inquiries about the accumulating piles in the snake pit. Garrison Command and DoMaD decided the clean up was a high priority mission and gave a three-week suspense date to complete the task.
Capt. David Boone was assigned the snake pit clean up.
“When this project came down, in my mind I thought ‘How am I going to start this? How many phases am I going to break this into?’ because it is an enormous project,” Boone said. He is grateful to the entire supply section at DoMaD for its willingness to help with planning and execution.
“Everyone pitched in. Everyone lent a hand.”
Garrison and DoMaD Command’s involvement was a key factor to the success of this task. “When all the right players get involved, it’s easier to get things done with everyone on post,” said Walker. He credits the supply section’s officer in charge, Lt. Col. Terrence Brookins, DoMaD Sgt Maj. Gabriel Jimenez, DoMaD deputy director Doug Vogel and Garrison S-3 Sgt. Maj. Terry Constantine for ensuring the clean-up crew had the tools they needed.
DoMaD’s supply section began the clean up July 17. Civilian contracted laborers assigned to DoMaD operated the heavy machinery. Company F, 2nd Brigade, 43rd Air Defense Artillery provided six heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks to haul the vehicles in a large convoy to DLA.
Eleven Soldiers from Company C, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, were part of the detail because their unit was on Red Cycle.
“It was a huge combined effort,” said Boone. The 4th Brigade STB Soldiers volunteered to work through the weekend to complete the mission.
Staff Sgt. Rey Crespo, S-4, appreciated their efforts.
“Thank you to all the units that helped make it happen. The guys volunteered to work the weekend, when they did not have to.”
DoMaD’s training and operations section came out on the weekend as well, providing pizzas one day and a barbeque for the team the next. Everyone worked twelve hour days and completed the task in seven days without any injuries or casualties.
DoMaD and Fort Bliss turned in more than 29,200 pounds of scrap metal to DLA for recycling, at 35 cents per pound, saving more than $10,000. The 13 abandoned vehicles were estimated at $26,000 each. Once sold, the funds will go to Fort Bliss’ general funds.
DoMaD’s supply section still has between 10 and 12 connexes with equipment that will be reallocated to units and organizations on post.