Soldiers participate in Bulwark 2004

Denise Calabria
21st Theater Support Command

***image1***Like a car without gasoline or a flashlight without batteries, an Army weapon without ammunition is useless. Members of a 23rd Ordnance Company unit understand this concept and the importance of an uninterrupted and precise flow of ammo to Soldiers participating in the Army’s first major training exercise in Bulgaria – or what has been dubbed, Bulwark 2004.
Staff Sgt. Gary Workman, 23rd Ordnance Section Sergeant, said the unit’s goal is to get the ammo to the line on time.
“We’re currently averaging 17 to 20 minutes from start to finish (from when a vehicle arrives at the Ammunition Holding Area for ammo pickup) for processing paperwork, inspections, accounting, uploading and ‘placarding’ (putting hazard-class symbols on the vehicle),” said Sergeant Workman, 28, a native of Ceredo, W.Va.
The 23rd OC is a subordinate unit of the 21st Theater Support Command’s 29th Support Group.
Sergeant Workman’s unit provides 43 types of ammunition for the numerous weapon systems – to include mortars, M-16s, and M-60s – at Bulwark. Strict inventory procedures are in place, along with backups.
“Our biggest concern with the exercise would be getting blank and live ammo mixed,” Sergeant Workman said. “Live ammo is for engaging targets on the range, while blank ammo is for engaging targets and each other.”
There is nothing in the ammo supply process left to chance. The ammo is stored in stacks according to lot numbers, and no fewer than two ammo specialists are required to draw it. Twenty-four hours before issuing the ammo, the specialists pull the inventory, then compare their counts, as well as what is noted on the ammo card. Then they recount the ammo. A non-commissioned officer also checks the numbers. Finally, when the ammo is distributed to units, it is counted one more time.
The unit must take back its unused live ammo and residue. Whatever was not fired is returned to inventory, and that which is spent is counted, sorted, and prepared for shredding and recycling.
The shipment of ammo is also complex. Ammo destined for Bulwark ’04 was railroaded out of the Kaiserslautern area, blocked and braced (to prevent shifting during transit) onto MILVANs, and then loaded on railcars bound for Bulgaria.
“The bottom line is to make sure the customer units get their ammo on time,” Sergeant Workman said. “It doesn’t help if you get the ammo there late. That’s what it’s all about.”
Although timeliness is also important to Brent Myers, 23d Ordnance Quality Assurance Specialist for Ammunition Surveillance (QASIS), his focus is on safety.
“A QASIS makes sure the ammo specialists are doing everything safely and that compatibility is ensured,” Mr. Myers said. “Since some ammunition can be highly combustible when stored together, I make sure that each MILVAN has its own separate compatibility.” He also ensures the AHA is located far away from certain explosive sites to reduce the hazard to Soldiers.