FORT HOOD, Texas - Surrounded by threatening concertina wire, several tall stacks of tank rounds sat sorted by type while just outside the wire, two Soldiers guard the area in the mid-day heat.

These Soldiers, who are with Company F, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and control this ammunition holding area (AHA), help ensure the safety of the units that they support by filtering through residue (spent ammo) and guarding the ammunition used in 3rd BCT training exercises.

By the third week of their mission, the Soldiers at this AHA were ready to sleep in their own beds June 30, but learned valuable lessons while they were there.

"Sometimes you get tired of guarding the AHA in the middle of the night but it's a wake up, you know," said Pvt. Rodrigo Hernandez, a driver with Co. F from Houston, TX.

"Once you get to Iraq you have to be on your feet. Being out here training helps you get used to it," he said.

Co. F was assigned the task of making sure that no live rounds returned to the brigade. They go to different training locations and collect spent ammunition from various control points.

These ammunition control points have already filtered through the brass picked off the range, but Company F goes the extra mile.

Each and every box of brass is spilled onto a tarp and picked over by hand by Hernandez and his comrades.

"I drive trucks to the different ranges to get the brass, go through the residue and make sure that there aren't any live rounds, make sure everything is clean, and pull security over at the AHA where we rotate shifts," Hernandez said.

"I do pretty much the same tasks that everyone does; everyone is treated equally," he said.

For one Soldier, this is a new learning experience.

"This is definitely a new experience because I've been in school for so long. But here I am in the real Army," said 2nd Lt. Brandon Baralt, a transportation platoon leader from Gresham, Ore.

"It's been interesting, exciting, and sometimes frustrating but overall I would say that I just enjoy being with the troops," he said.

Baralt said that this training exercise has given him a better understanding of dealing with the ammunition.

"You know, growing up, we were always very strict about ammo and now I'm learning why it is such a sensitive thing and how to be very meticulous about it," said Baralt.

"Seeing how people turn in their ammo and how the other companies handle their ammo and give it to us helps us learn how we can prevent them from mixing everything up," he said.

"How can we organize it and make the whole process less of a headache for everyone'" Baralt said.

Without his Soldiers working well together, Baralt said the job would never get done.

"Honestly, I love seeing things happen, I love when things move, I love when things get accomplished," Baralt said. "Seeing that done and seeing my troops work together, not griping at each other is the most rewarding."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16