White Sands Missile Range Hosts Nuclear and Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction Students at Trinity Site

By Jenn Jett, Museum Specialist

On Wednesday, 14 April 2021, the WSMR Museum and Public Affairs Office made the two hour drive north from Main Post to Trinity Site, the location where the world’s first atomic weapon was tested on 16 July 1945.

Visiting Trinity Site were students of the Army’s Nuclear and Counter-Proliferation Course conducted at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM and Fort Belvoir, VA. These students are training to become Functional Area 52 (FA 52) Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Officers.

The visit started at Jumbo, the giant container intended to house and contain the Gadget, sits in front of the perimeter fence. From there, everyone moved to the obelisk that marks the location of ground zero, with groups of students branching off to run their equipment at different locations within the fence line. To close out the day, the students toured the McDonald Ranch, a former homesteading ranch that was repurposed with a clean room to assemble the Gadget.

Museum Director/Curator Darren Court provides the historical background and context that led to the Trinity Test in the middle of the New Mexican desert.

For the students, Trinity Site provides an in-person example of the potential of nuclear weapons and the residual traces of a bomb tested almost 76 years ago. Armed with Geiger Counters and other instruments, the students tested the grounds at Trinity. Although the amount of radiation still at the site is minuscule, students were still able to pick up isotopes of Cesium and Europium near ground zero.

A radionuclide identifier shows traces of Cesium-137 and Europium-152 at Trinity Site.

The mission of FA 52 is to provide nuclear and CWMD expertise, technical advice and analysis, and policy recommendations to the Army, Combatant Commands, Army Service Component Commanders, and leaders in the entire Department of Defense.

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