Minemen and Environmental Issues

 

Dear Shipmates,

I recently received a query about environmental issues relating to mine applications and processes from an ex-mineman, Matt Lathrop. I forwarded his concerns to my mailing list and was overwhelmed by the numerous responses. Matt’s original letter to me read:

Mr. Derick Hartshorn,

Back in the early 80's I was at MOMAG Det. 01 in Long Beach then we moved to Seal Beach. Our shop was a MET shop. We would get Navy Marine Corp Mk 82, 83, 84 bomb bodies and shave or cut off the oblative fire retardant with disc sanders then paint the inert bomb body. What would happen is the shop would be heavily covered with fine silica dust. I talked to the MNCM at Seal Beach. He said they are still cutting the coating off each bomb body. Back when I was in Long Beach, I believe Danny Custer went home with lung cancer and Peter Bruin had constant nose bleeds from the dust. I had and still have bronchitis from that time period.

Do you or anyone else know what that material nomenclature.

I ran upon another MN a couple of years back who said the MK57 and 56 had PCB's in the anchor. Do you know of this is true?

Matt added this postscript:

We would cut off the ablative coating from inert Mk 82-84 bomb bodies. Then sand them down to metal and apply "Zinc Chromate", as a base then white and orange paint (think it was lead based) to designate the mine as MET. In Long Beach, the entire shop was covered in a fine heavy dust that was slick to touch. As an example you had to wipe off the toilet seat to keep from sliding off. In our break room you had to wipe the microwave clean from the dust. The shop was some what open air (former seaplane hanger) as was paint shop. The guys who painted the most had nose bleeds' and as you read one went home to die at age 19 with "black lung" . I was told by a Chief and a Corpsmen that he had lung cancer. Most of the guys and two gals (women's shed was the east wall of paint booth) had allergies or respiratory issues. All attributed them to "Santa Ana Winds". No one used protection other than paint booth respirators and occasional gloves. I myself used toilet bowel cleaner (sodium hexachloride) to clean Mk 25 and 36 cooper flange ring. So we could reuse them on the next plant. Often I witnessed EOD and LCU-1613 personnel eat squid and other sea life that came out of the anchors while at sea off Santa Rosa Island Range in 1981.

So until the Internet and user groups could my nagging questions be answered. I tried to contact McAlister, Oklahoma Ammunition's Depot, Safety Officer to find out what the silica based coating was but the Release of Information Officer said the SO refused to comment on coating. I contacted Det 01 MNCM who contacted COMOMAU with no one knowing what the coating nomenclature or composition. Any help would be of course helpful to this group much alone myself.

Best and Blessings to you,
Matt Lathrop

It appears from the responses I received that many other minemen were potentially exposed to PCBs, asbestos, silica dust, fiber glass and other possible hazardous substances. Whether they posed health threats, I have no way of knowing. I would like to share the responses I received so that IF health issues are involved, minemen who worked under the same conditions as Matt Lathrop might be made aware of similar experiences.

These responses are grouped together, where possible. The names and addresses of the respondents are provided so that the reader may directly communicate with the author.


The Mk 56 and 57 mines contained PCB's below the permissible exposure limits of OSHA.

As to the snake skin shaved off the Mk 82 bomb bodies you can ask for the Navy Industrial Hygiene Report which can be obtained at the base navy occupational health clinic.

The base safety office will also have copies and these copies must be retained for 7 years.

Donald J. Leavens, CIV <donald.leavens@navy.mil>


Derick, I'm probably not the first (nor will be the last?) to let you know: 56/57 mines did indeed have polychlonated byphenyls on their anchor cable's anti-fouling compound. Most of the anchors of the 56 was also 'contaminated' and it was only slightly better contained within the 57 anchor. The compound also contains mercurous chloride (I believe) and beeswax. The 56 left service use in the past couple of years, and the 57 has been gone for decades. In recent times (80s?) we donned chem gloves and suits to handle the anchors. Of course, this was after years of 'snacking' on the cable coating by not washing your hands after working the anchors!

I would think removing the 'skin' on those bomb bodies would produce fiberglass and maybe asbestos dust? Don't quote me on that, as I'm not really sure. Hope this helps, but don't construe any of this as 'expert'-the gray matter fades quickly I hear.

Thomas A. Watson <twatson@alionscience.com>


Mr. Hartshorn,

Hello I'm MN1(SW) Munoz currently onboard USS Sentry (MCM-3). I was stationed at MOMAU-12 Misawa, Japan and the MK 56 is still in production and yes the anchor is still fouled with PCB's. Anytime that the anchor is opened sailors have the area sealed with plastic coating and wear protective suits and outer wear. The silica dust at Unit One I am not sure but have a real good friend that was stationed there. if you would like me to forward your email to him maybe he has some good info on tat subject.

Ricardo Munoz MN1 <rickmcmunoz@hotmail.com>


Mk 56/57 most certainly had PCB's in the anchors. It was contained in the anti-fouling compound on the anchor cables and would melt and leak when hot. I remember cleaning it up off of the ground at unit 8 (Guam- Pete Bruin was there at the time) after the weapons were left sitting in the sun.

Jon Frank, Jr. <jonfrankjr@yahoo.com>


Mk 56 and 57 do/did have PCBs in the grease that coated the anchor cables. There was actually a blurb in the assy manual on it.

I believe most of the MET stuff had likely had the cables replaced but they always warned us when getting in new anchors to always wear rubber gloves and not to get the stuff on our skin.

As far as the coating on the bomb bodies go I couldn't tell you. All the MET bodies we had at Momag 11 had many times over been sanded, then later, water blasted and repainted. It seems like someone had said something about it being a asbestos coating but don't quote me on that one.

Joddy Grider, Customer Support Engineer, Cisco Systems, Inc.<jgrider@cisco.com>


Derick,

I had heard that there was a problem like Matt described, but I have nothing that would help him.

Don DeCrona <DECRONADL@aol.com>


The Mk 56 and Mk 57 had PCBs in the antifouling compound on the mooring cables. 

Bill Fortner <mk27@httswireless.com>


PCB's in 56 & 57 on the anchor cable, we had to wear white PCB suits when working on them.

Gordon Harris <gharris99@cox.net>


Yes, the Mk 56 and Mk 57 Anchor did have PCB's in the anti-fouling compound coating on the cable. At one point a field change came out and had Minemen putting Teflon tape on the cable drum to seal it to prevent it from leaking out. I was in Colts Neck, NJ when that came out.

Mark McClain, MNCS <markonj@hotmail.com>


 I don't know about the coating on the destructors. I do remember the coating on the MK 56 and 57 anchors were anti fouling did contain PCBs.

John Loonam Karl Madsen, MN1 (ret) <karl@comicsonline.com>


 I don't know about the coating on the destructors. I do remember the coating on the MK 56 and 57 anchors were anti fouling did contain PCBs

John Loonam <jloonam@yahoo.com>


Hi Mr. Hartshorn,

I don't know about the MK 57, but the MK 58 is handled by personnel in hazmat suits for upgrades with areas for assembly and some subassemblies being covered in plastic and taped off. Yes, the MK 56 contains PCBs. Can't tell you about the bombs because in my 7.3 years of experience our general purpose bomb bodies were all prepped . I don't know anything about the silicate dust, but so much refurb is done with all kinds of respirators and other safety gear.

Kecia Nason, MN1<ocbruinusnvet@gmail.com>
 (Separated from Unit 1, Seal Beach, CA after 4.5 years there).


I was there also, and no, Danny Custer did not have lung cancer he had Black Lung, and yes all the Mk 56/57 had PCB's and we were told that back then. I just turned 50 this year. and I retired 11 years ago from the navy and I don't have any [thing] wrong with me from that material we all played with back then.

Bill Estes, EMS/Scada Analyst, AEP <wbestes@aep.com>


I do believe that the Mk 56 and 57 have PCBs on the anchor cable. We had to wear poopy suits if we were around the cable and anchor. I was in from 1990-1999.

Shawn Gary <garyshawn@hotmail.com>


Mr. R. Swart should be able to get the MILSPECS from Rock Island Arsenal, as they are in-charge of all Military Paints used on Ordnance. I am quite sure their not classified

Willie Wilson <rivdiv592@att.net>


Yes, the MK56/57 have PCB's in the anchor. The antifouling compound that we coated the anchor cable with was full of PCB's.

V/R MNCM(AW/SW) Carrie Williams, HM-15 <chiefcarrie@yahoo.com>


The 56 & 57 have PBC in the anchors.

Richard D. Schommer <rschommer@bellsouth.net>


The antifouling compound on the Mk 56/57 anchor cables was likely mercuric chloride. An expensive ($30 a gallon over 30 years ago) antifouling paint (COPPERPAC) was used on the mine case of the Mk 57 & possibly Mk 56.

After the disastrous aircraft carrier fires, Navy bombs used an intumescent coating which was designed to keep the bomb from exploding for at least 5-minutes in a raging 800 degree fire. The coating was supposedly non-toxic. www.firestop.com has some info. I saw a training film of a coated bomb in a fire. The coating caused a very active sputtering reaction which apparently helped to reduce the heat.

The antifouling compound on the anchor cable of the Mk 57 & possibly the Mk 56 was a mercury-compound that was toxic.

 Don Jones <Jodo496Usn@aol.com>


Derick,

Yes there were PCBs in the MK 56 anchor. I don't think we were required to start wearing any protective gear until the late 90's while working on them.

Regards,
Stephanie

Stephanie Cowart <cowdawg1@yahoo.com>


Cheers Shipmate,

Yes, its common knowledge that the mooring cables in the anchors were coated with a thick anti-fouling compound that contained PCB's; however, if you did not touch it you were O.K. In addition, the Mk6 anchors that we use to "Short Line" were super thick with the stuff, I spent many days spooling coated anchor cables with my bare hands back onto anchors for Mk6 plants in Charleston. Also the anti-fouling copper-pak dust that we sanded off and painted on the 56/57 was later found to be hazardous too, a dust mask was not enough to keep the copper out of your lungs. I have no knowledge of the material on the 80 series bombs, I saw it often enough but on only war-shot rounds.

Nick Willey, MN1 Ret. <oransay@verizon.net>


Hi Derrick,

I was at MOMAG 9 in Subic and used to be covered in anti-fouling compound (PCB's). Just washed our hands and ate our sandos. Years later, you couldn't even go near the anchors of the 56/57 w/o a white suit and hood and face mask and gloves. As far as the "Orange Peel" on the bomb bodies, I believe it has asbestos in it as did the 65 if I am not mistaken.

I figured that some day this medical problems would show their ugly heads. I have heard of Cusler and knew Peter. So sorry to hear of their problems. Didn't know Matt however. Looks like we need to get as many of us older MN to document all this. I know when I retired I put on my VA paperwork all of these bad substances. There are many more. All the liquids we would use and the copper pac paint on the 57 too.

I have joint problems from being a human tool, (couldn't use power tools to do the work), starting all the bolts on the tail plates and sensor/arming device openings on the mine body. Then speed handles/rachets/torque wrenches.

Feel free to catalog and or pass on this info.

Rick Spofford <rspofford@hotmail.com>


Derick,

The early 56 & 57 anchor cables were covered with a coating that contained PCBs. The cable spools were changed out, but I'm not sure what date that began/ended.

I recall the alligator skin on some inert and explosive loaded bombs but I don't know what the fire retardant compound consisted of.

Ron Swart would probably know the answer to both questions.

John Epps <MNCM@aol.com>


If I recall correctly, the Mk 56 did have PCB's in the anchor. It was in the grease that was on the cable which was used as an anti-fouling agent. I remember doing service on those and had to wear the white "poopy suits" to avoid from getting that stuff on me specifically because of the PCB's. I was in Seal Beach from '96-'99 and do not recall ever cutting the coating off of the bomb bodies.

Paul M. Becker, PHR (909) 213-2700 paul@paulbecker.net
http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulmbecker


Howdy Derick!

Don't know about the fire retardant thing, but the PCB health danger was exposed by Time magazine around 1980. I was attending an CO/OIC conference in Charleston at the time when someone brought in the magazine and we all just looked at each other.

It is indeed a fact that we used grease with PCB on the MK56/57 anchor cable. The PCB was supposed to retard marine growth on the cable.

Needless to say, our troops working on the anchors used no protection what-so-ever and ended up covered with grease/PCB from head to toe.

After the Time expose, our troops were instructed to wear gloves but you know how that goes.

Later, take care & God Bless

Joe Sapien <CWOGunner77@aol.com>


Derick,

It is true that there is or was PCB's in the Mk 56/57 anchor. It was contained in the Antifouling compound used to keep the mooring cable clear of barnacles when they were deployed in the water. When I first entered the navy in 1969, we only wore gloves as protection. But in later years were required to completely suit-up to prevent exposure to the antifouling compound. I hope this helps you.

Jan L. Bays MNCM (Ret) <jbays@byrnesschools.org>


Mr. Hartshorn,

I was a MN from 91-95; I helped close DET2 in Machrihanish, Scotland, and I did my next two years in Sigonella.

Yes, to my knowledge, the 57 and 57s were coated in PCBs. We were told about it; warned of it constantly by the QAs, in fact.

It's been a long time since I've dipped my toe in the mine force pool, but I can offer you this much: "Yes, Virginia, those anchors ARE  poisonous."

Thomas W. McKenzie, PA1 <Thomas.W.McKenzie@uscg.mil>


The thermal coatings of the GP 82 and 83 bomb bodies contains asbestos. 65 Quick Strikes also have an asbestos thermal coating.

MN1(SW) John A. Pennington, NMC Unit Charleston, ET <john.a.pennington@navy.mil>


We used considerable quantities of TCE (carbon tet) to clean impeller components at Azuma 1951-55 and dumped the used stuff into the harbor. I know of no illness this might have caused.

 Judge George Preston" <gpreston@cavecreek.org>


Derick,

From what I've found, "Akbar-Khanzadeh and Brillhart 2002" (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12176721) regarding the silica dust, and yes, PCB's were present in those other mines.

MNCM(SW/SS) Kurt Stauff <kmsmncs@yahoo.com>


Sorry Hartshorn, I retired in 1970 and I was never involved with sand blasting the mines. I guess there could be some danger in inhaling any kind of dust. I remember we used tools that were made of beryllium. We use to grind the beryllium chisels to sharpen them. Never thought the dust was dangerous. Who knows how many mineman could have been effected. I copied this off the internet (Commercial use of beryllium metal presents technical challenges due to the toxicity (especially by inhalation) of beryllium-containing dusts. Beryllium produces a direct corrosive effect to tissue, and can cause a chronic life-threatening allergic disease called berylliosis in susceptible persons.) Sorry for going off the original subject. Take care Hartshorn.

Chin Sing, Jr." <chin.sing@sbcglobal.net>


Shipmates,

I served from 1990-1993 MOMAG Unit 3 in New jersey and I was exposed to Zinc Chromate and in 2004 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Finally in 2008 the VA awarded me my service connection for the cancer.....

Did any of these sailors use the spray Zinc Chromate as I did?

Jon Marr Former MN3 <jon_marr@yahoo.com>


All, I can get the specs on the fire-retardant coating. I can't figure out why they are cutting off the coating unless it is so damaged they can't use the bomb. Doesn't make sense to me... order a new bomb! I'll investigate. I've also provided MSDS sheets for the Mk 56/57 mine anchor cable coating in the past for Wes keith and for Glen Holden. Derick, can you send me this person's contact information please?
 

Swart Ron <swartre@comcast.net>


Derick,

You may want to look at the following link, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General-purpose_bomb#Modern_American_GP_bombs:_the_Mark_80_series

If you follow their links it tells you a little about what Matt needs to know. Since I got out in 1965 the only bombs I fooled with didn't have the coating he needs to know about. Hope this helps.

Bob Campbell, MN2 1961-1965 <popbob@charter.net>


I'm certainly not the most qualified person to answer this inquiry since I've been out of the business for more than a decade, but it's fun to recant what I know anyhow, so here goes...

The Mk 56/57 anchor cables are coated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This is to prevent accumulation of sea growth over time, thus affecting mooring depth. Specific PPE requirements were established by the time I worked on them (1984), though early on, I saw plenty of the "old timers" take this requirement pretty lightly. It also seems like I remember, at very hot times of the year in Subic Bay, seeing the paste-like material begin to break down and appear as a liquid that we cleaned up and handled as hazardous waste. Photos of the PPE in use are available at the following link, http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WAMUS_Mines.htm. PCBs include a broad family of man-made chlorinated hydrocarbons. For general information about them, including general associated health concerns, here is the EPA link, http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/about.htm.

In regard to removing the exterior thermal coating from general purpose bombs, I recall a procedure we would use that allowed for removal with a cold chisel and hammer, not sanding. Further, this was only used to remove loose pieces and there were criteria which would reject the bombs if too much was missing. I was stationed at Unit 1 in Seal Beach from 1995-1999, and I don't recall ever having our crews sand this external coating off inert bomb bodies. Last, I would believe any sanding operations would still have required the use of appropriate respiratory protection, correct?

Lee Whitmore <lee@benexfume.com>


I am a bit confused about this. First of all, the Carrier fires in the 60's and 70's where a lot of ordinance got burned up and caused secondary explosions on deck caused the Navy to require a "fire retardant" coating or paint on as many pieces of large ordinance as they could get painted. This material was called "Intumescent Paint" and was required for long term storage afloat for all main bursting charge bombs and Mines. There were some exceptions but not many. This included the 80 series low drag GP bombs and the larger mines including the Mk 52/55 and Mk 65 but not Mk 56/57 or Mk 60.

My confusion starts where the story begins, that is, where Intumescent paint was being removed from bomb bodies. If this is true then those bombs could not, by regulation be stored afloat except to transport to land installations abroad and I though the paint was much too costly to be applied to shop dummies or MET Mines.

Anyway, the main material in Intumescent paint is Sodium Silicate or Sodium Meta-Silicate. According to the MSDS Sheet on-line, this material is a mild irritant when inhaled and will, perhaps, cause inflammation of the lungs and mucus membranes but not much else. Please don't take my word for this. If there is some medical condition involved seek medical advise.

As for PCB's in the anchor. Yes, the Mk 56 did have a white grease coating on the anchor cable. In this grease were PCB's put there as a deterrent to sea growth which could weaken and weigh down the cable once moored. During operations involving the assembly or disassembly of the anchor, the operator had to wear gloves, a suit and protective head/face gear. In warm climates, this was a real bummer. The same chemical, I'm told, was, in smaller amounts, in the red paint on the Explosive and Instrument casing sections of both Mk 56 and 57. This is why, if you leaned on the mine case when sweating, your skin became irritated. I don't believe there were any PCB's on the anchor cable for the Mk 57 though.

Greg Moffatt <gmoffatt@cox.net>


Dear Sir,

I read this posting with great interest. I think it would be a good thing if someone where to start or keep a record of some of the strange things that Minemen were exposed to in various places at various times. I do not know of any specific PCB's in the MK57. But, I clearly remember the runny yellow paint, we used to use to touch up the inside of the cases. I was supposed to be something special that kept condensation from forming. It was real bad and even with the best respirators, you were way inside the case and they would get overwhelmed. I heard there was a case of one Mineman claiming, he and a friend got some form of cancer from it. I don't know about that. But, that paint was bad. One thing I remember is the massive amounts of regular red lead and plain old OD paint, we sprayed. In Mac, where we had the British barracks there were continuous on demand hot water showers. Many days I spend a full twenty minutes or more coughing up OD phlegm after painting all day. I'd use the hot shower to loosen up everything and then cough it out. This was after using all the protective gear we had. I knew it wasn't good for me. But I was to young to think about, what it might do 30 years later. God only knows how much old paint I ground off and breathed in too. Finally in the 60/70 and early 80's a lot of electromagnetical gear had PCB's in them. Who knows what was in each different one.

Mike Thoma <mn3thoma@yahoo.com>


The mine question was post facto to me because, I worked on limited mines mostly MK6's and a few others but, was never exposed to those chemicals and paints. Most of the mines we picked up from Yorktown and placed on our Famous Ship, USS Gwin- DM 33, Charleston, S.C. There were already painted and ready to plant ,which we did off Onslow Beach, NC and Key West, Fla. 1955-56 and up and down the South Eastern Coast. We had sweep gear, and para-vanes on board. Before that I was at Roosevelt Roads for 25 months, 53-55, Port Security-Special Services and before that I was a Chauffer for an Admirals Staff in Europe, 52-53. Bainbridge, Md. -boot camp before that.

Jack Powell" <33jpowell@cox.net>


Back in '64-'65, we had the Mk 56 & 57 for T&E at KWESTEVDET. There was trouble with the coating on the anchor cable - two things as I recall. The original coating attracted sea turtles, for some reason, which would chew on the cable, and when they (NOL) investigated, they found the coating had some environmental issues as well. I remember that a couple of our crew broke out with a severe rash. I don't remember if it was reported as a PCB problem, but it supposedly was corrected.

Toby Horn <tobyonesc@bellsouth.net>


I was attached to the Key West Test and Evaluation Detachment from 1961 thru 1964. Beginning in 1961 the initial fleet acceptance testing of the Mk 57, submarine laid mine was commenced, if I am not mistaken we received about two hundred pre-production units to conduct the acceptance testing of the mine. We were advised to use gloves when handling the mooring cable dispensers and the mooring cable, because of the chemical make up of the anti-fouling compound. At the time we were not aware of the PCB's contained in the compound, nor were we aware of potential long term dangers of the material, who knew what PCB's were at that time? It was hot when in contact with your skin. There were also no restrictions on dumping used cable over the side. The initial mine cases were not painted on the inside which caused a problem of extreme itching for the assembler who came in contact with the inside of the case. We found that a healthy dosing of talcum powder on the arms and neck of the assembler helped. The problem was that the fiber glass material sluffed off when it was rubbed. I don't believe that it was ever determined if the fiberglass fibers were ever air borne and could have been inhaled. The problem was resolved when the weapon went into production by painting the inside of the case. At the end of the acceptance testing several of the units were sent to the Mine School at Charleston, so no telling how many MN's came in contact with the unpainted mine cases.

Fast forward to 1970 time frame, I was OIC of the Naval Mine Engineering Facility and the policy was that all MK 56 and 57 mooring cables when used were to be fleet returned to NWS Yorktown for disposal, what a nightmare! At that time it was also determined that all personnel handling the mooring cables would be equipped with special clothing etc. I don't know if the Weapons Station ever developed an adequate system for disposing of the fleet returned mooring cables.

Bill Roberts, CDR USN Ret. <roberts237@bellsouth.net>


Thank you for establishing this page on the AOM website. Although I didn't work with what we then referred to as "New Mines" during my enlistment (except in "A" school), like Jon Marr, Mike Thoma, yourself, and others, I had a significant exposure to zinc chromate paint. I've done some preliminary Internet research and have found a particularly interesting database containing extensive research done by a medical doctor in Quebec, Canada. Among many others, he describes the toxicology of both zinc and chromium compounds. His statement: "Zinc chromate is the most potent carcinogen among chromates commonly found in industrial settings;....." particularly piqued my interest.  [NOTE: see the NIH and ACS reports]

It seems that both compounds can be ingested either through the skin, the gastrointestinal system, or the respiratory system as airborne particulate. I can't remember whether the zinc chromate paint we used on mine cases was in the liquid or aerosol form, but those of us who served in Yokosuka walked or drove past the sandblasting shed on every trip to or from the stock control building. Although the Japanese sandblasters wore protective clothing and respirators, the air outside the shed was permeated with the dust of both OD and ZC paint.

In addition to other diseases and disorders, chromium can cause lung cancer, while zinc can cause a multitude of cancers. The host website's URL is: http://digitalfire.com. I plan to write an e-mail to the doctor who performed the research and will report here anything of significance that I may receive in response.

Joe Beetar <seawolf43@comcast.net>


NOTE: My personal experience in these areas of "hazardous materials" is limited to the zinc chromate paint used to refurbish mine casings during my tour in Yokosuka. While there, I was the tool room supervisor at Mine Assembly and also maintained the paint locker. I sharpened beryllium scrapers, probably at the rate of several dozen each day and never thought anything about it.

Derick S. Hartshorn <derickh@charter.net>


Several other responses were received that failed to add fresh information.


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VHA Public Health Strategic Health Care Group Home Page

VHI Guide to Gulf War Veterans Health
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VONAPP online
WARMS - 38 CFR Book C
Wartime Disability Compensation
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Welcome to the GI Bill Web Site
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Derick S. Hartshorn - 2010-present
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