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Vance senior leader accepts top-level defense awards at Pentagon

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  • By 71st FTW Public Affairs
The 71st Operations Group commander recently accepted the Secretary of Defense Group Achievement Award and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award on behalf of his former unit's successful destruction of over 600 tons of Syrian chemical weapons material.

Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, presented the awards to Col. John Cinnamon during a ceremony at the Pentagon Nov. 12.

Prior to joining Team Vance, Cinnamon served in triple hatted assignments as the lead planner on the Office of Secretary of Defense Acquisitions, Technology, and Logistics Syrian Integration Team and the chief of plans for both the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Strategic Command Center for Combatting Weapons of Mass Destruction.

"The threat of Syrian chemical weapons was extremely significant," said Cinnamon. "The Syrian regime had already used chemical weapons against enemy forces and innocent civilians, and the likelihood for terrorist elements gaining control of these weapons was high."

Cinnamon led DTRA's Regional Contingency Team that created a first-ever means to destroy chemical weapons aboard a ship. For years, the U.S. has disposed of chemical weapons material on land, but according to Cinnamon, the State Department was unable to gain agreement from any other nation to host destruction operations. That's when his team stepped in and recommended a ship-borne option--an international operation that took 16 months from beginning to end.

The team developed a Field Deployable Hydrolysis System uniquely capable of destroying massive quantities of Syrian chemical weapons. The FHDS used the same technology and chemical process used on land sites, but the addition of a field deployable system brought on many challenges.

"This historic mission was the result of a large number of DTRA professionals that refused to accept failure and worked round-the-clock to keep finding ways to say 'yes, we can make this happen' despite innumerable obstacles," said Cinnamon.

Cinnamon's RCT coordinated efforts between U.S. government agencies, foreign governments, international organizations and environmental groups.

The recognition the team received is really for all the individuals at DTRA who poured their hearts and souls into making the world safer by removing these chemical weapons from the world stage, said Cinnamon.

"I know the team saved the lives of countless innocent civilians with their efforts," he said.

Cinnamon was also the primary author on the Framework Agreement with the Russian government that detailed the cooperation necessary to receive the Syrian chemical weapons and transfer them to the Motor Vessel Cape Ray for destruction.

"Successfully negotiating with the Russian government to assist the international community in removing and destroying these weapons was the absolute highlight of my tour of duty in the D.C. area."

The final demolition of the chemical stockpiles ended in August, a neutralization process that took four months onboard the MV Cape Ray.

Hagel added that accomplishments like this are not new to the Department of Defense, but this mission was truly exceptional and represents a perfect example of how the Department can respond rapidly to emerging threats.