Richmond H. Dugger III spends his days dealing with potentially explosive issues at his Ashburn company, UXB International Inc. UXB is short for unexploded bombs.
According to its World Wide Web site, UXB is one of the world's few "ordnance and explosive waste remediation companies." In English, its 400 employees keep things--land mines in Bosnia, unexploded artillery shells left behind worldwide by U.S. military training programs--from blowing up.
Dugger, a former Army artillery officer, was working at a Washington bank in 1983 when he and two friends found out that the government wanted a private company to perform this dangerous work.
Dugger, almost 50 (he says that so as not to call attention to the fact he is slightly younger than his wife, Barbara), put up the seed money for his friends to start UXB, and within the year, he joined them. He moved the company to Ashburn four years ago and now works almost next door to Barbara, owner of GiftPort.com.
On Sunday, UXB's expertise was featured in a Discovery Channel program on the Liberty Bell 7, a space capsule that crashed in 1961 and was recovered only this past summer. The capsule, which carried astronaut Gus Grissom, sank off the coast of Florida in about 15,000 feet of water after Grissom escaped unharmed. Dugger's company was called in to defuse several explosive mechanisms in the capsule, including a self-destruct device and a buoy-triggering device that was supposed keep the capsule afloat after it landed ("It didn't work," Dugger said).
A company such as Dugger's is not for the procedurally timid.
"Our procedures are . . . written on the same level of detail as you would expect to find in the nuclear industry," Dugger said.
Whether the topic is driving to a work site or setting up a plastic explosive, no detail is too small. A driving guide even includes checking the car's oil and battery and reminds the employee to buckle his or her seat belt.
"We've never had an explosive incident or accident in 7 million hours of . . . ordnance work," Dugger said, "I attribute it to our procedures."
About 40 of UXB's employees are based in Loudoun. The company, which does about $25 million in sales annually, now has 40 projects in the works, including the cleanup of a 32,000-acre former Navy training area on the Hawaiian island of Kaho 'Olawe. Workers must take a helicopter from Maui each day to get to the site, which the Navy used to bomb on a regular basis.
Dugger moved to Loudoun 20 years ago because, he said, laughing at the new irony of his statement, he "really enjoyed the lack of development." He persuaded Barbara to move from Fairfax there when they married eight years ago.
Although Dugger often gives his wife advice on her company, he said the couple's business relationship is pretty much a one-way street.
"She tends not to give advice on ordnance disposal," he said.
CAPTION: Richmond H. Dugger III, president of UXB International, says he gives more business advice to his wife than he receives from her.