Army Reserve unit turns to different source for training
August 19, 2013
McALESTER, Okla. (Aug. 19, 2013) -- McAlester Army Ammunition Plant is known as a premier bomb and warhead loading facility, but for one Army Reserve unit that recently completed its annual training here, it's simply the 'Center of Excellence' for ammunition.
"We're here basically because this is the Center of Excellence for classified ammunition," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Jennings, platoon sergeant for 1st platoon, 163rd Ordnance Company and noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the training. "This place sets the standard."
Sixty-one Army Reservists from the unit headquartered at the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Center in Tustin, Calif., converged on McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, or MCAAP, for training, July 20, after it was announced earlier this year that the nationwide, large-scale Operation Golden Cargo exercise was cancelled.
Second Lt. Carlos Genel, the company's executive officer and officer-in-charge for the training, said the intent was to set up an ammunition supply point, clear the area, provide command and control and submit requests for ammunition -- essentially the same mission the unit would perform during a deployment.
The crux of the training was directly related to the maintenance, handling and inspection of munitions -- military occupational specialties held by 56 Soldiers who came here for training.
"The training they are getting is really high speed," Genel said. "The goal for them is to go through the crawl, walk and run [training] phases."
To help the Soldiers get to the "run" phase, Genel said that in addition to the hands-on training, his Soldiers have also attended Class V Issue and Turn-In Procedures and Hazardous Materials Familiarization and Safety in Transportation classes taught by the Defense Ammunition Center, known as the DAC.
But the required skill sets for ammo handlers extend beyond munitions. They must also know how to operate and, in some instances, be certified in a variety of equipment.
Jennings said it's necessary because when ordnance Soldiers deploy, they may be expected to operate equipment that's not normally part of their unit issue. He cited the Hyster forklift and super stacker, which is used to lift and move containers, as examples.
Jennings said 37 Soldiers received familiarization training from the MCAAP workforce and were certified on multiple forklifts, which was possible because the concepts are the same.
"You can take the Hyster tilt, lift and safety concepts in that certification and then you can test out on the [rough-terrain forklift] and the 6K [All-Terrain Lifter, Army System II telescopic forklift]," he said. "You keep building on that, but it all starts with the Hyster."
The Soldiers also received familiarization training on Humvees, Light-Medium Tactical Vehicles, and the 16.5 ton Palletized Loading System tactical truck.
Genel said that aside from gaining invaluable equipment and military occupational specialty training, some of the 54 junior enlisted Soldiers also learned firsthand about leadership.
"The best part is that I have [specialists] in charge of their sections," he said. "Junior leaders are stepping into the role of an NCO and leading their Soldiers and sections."
MCAAP hasn't traditionally been thought of as a training site, but what the installation and expertise of the civilian workforce have to offer has struck a chord with this ordnance unit.
"To get here and receive training with [the civilian workforce] and just the networking aspect of it is invaluable," Jennings said. "There is nowhere else where we can get this institutional knowledge of ammo."
"It's priceless," Genel added.
From fiscal year 2009, active duty, Reserve and National Guard units have trained on MCAAP 86 times, said Sammie Kinchion, chief of military affairs. The command welcomes it.
"Between DAC and our MCAAP workforce, we are the Defense Department's subject matter experts in ammunition safety, production, maintenance and logistics," said Col. Joseph G. Dalessio, MCAAP commander.
"Our mission has always been to ensure our warfighters have lethal and reliable munitions when and where they need them, but we're also pleased to offer our expertise to help ensure units are prepared to fight and win our nation's wars," he added.
McAlester Army Ammunition Plant is the Department of Defense's premier bomb and warhead loading facility, and is one of 14 industrial facilities in the Joint Munitions Command. It is vital to ammunition stockpile management and delivery to the joint warfighter for training and combat operations.