An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsArticle Display

Additional acreage closed for UXO mitigation

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Jan Kays)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Jan Kays)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- To minimize the risk inherent to areas known or suspected to have unexploded ordnance here, 30th Space Wing leadership closed an additional 9,417.7 acres of land to non-mission and recreational activities Sept. 27.

Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander, decided to close the additional acreage, which brings the total area closed for UXO mitigation to 20,488.7 acres, following an in-depth review of applicable regulations, recommendations from the 30th SW Safety Office, and in light of the fact that some 192 UXOs have been found here to date.

"I highly value the access we have to Vandenberg's natural resources, however safety is my first priority," said Colonel Boltz. "Closing the additional acreage is critical to the safety of personnel as well as to ensure compliance with applicable Air Force and Department of Defense explosives safety standards."

All together, Vandenberg's total area is nearly 100,000 acres. Of that, the areas closed for UXO mitigation will have minimal impact to base operations, said Steve McKinnon, 30th SW Safety Office weapons safety specialist. Personnel who will be affected most by the land closure are base contractors and prison ranchers who work in or around the areas and people who used the land for recreational purposes.

The base's ultimate goal in closing the additional acreage is to allow time for the areas to be swept and cleared of all explosive material so that the land can be turned back over to public use in the future. Some areas, however, may never be swept due to the incline of the terrain or thickness of the vegetation, preventing access--those areas will be clearly marked by base safety personnel as needed.

Many reasons contributed to the land closure including safety and regulatory compliance. Other than posing the obvious safety hazards, Department of Defense installations must abide by DOD regulations that mandate the identification and control of explosives and safety risks in contaminated areas.

"According to DOD regulations, areas on an installation known or suspected to contain UXOs are to be closed to all but operational requirements," said Mr. McKinnon. The 30th Space Wing Weapons Safety Office is the approval/hazard mitigation authority for proposed operational activities in the closed areas.

The story of UXOs at Vandenberg has its beginnings nearly 70 years back. Before Vandenberg was an Air Force base, the land was an Army installation named Camp Cooke, which operated from 1941 to 1953. Camp Cooke was an armored and infantry forces training camp established in response to military training needs during World War II. Anti-aircraft artillery and other ordnances were dispersed during the Army's training, and the UXOs here today are an unintended consequence of that vital training.

Even before the Army turned its land over to the Air Force in 1956, cleanup efforts of military munitions had begun.

The cleanup continues today, and keeping the base populace safe and aware of the issue is a top command priority. The base has implemented various types of institutional controls, including warning signs at locations that are potentially hazardous, as well as developing fact sheets, a safety video and brochures to educate and inform the base populace concerning UXOs.

"This closure shouldn't be too much of an imposition on anyone," Mr. McKinnon said. "It is a management issue, but nothing mission impeding."

For more information about UXOs and restricted areas, call the 30th SW Weapons Safety Office at 606-1079 or 605-0838.