CRANE, Ind. - There is a great deal of preparation and training that goes into getting a unit prepared for a deployment overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. While all of the training is valuable for saving lives, it does not always relate directly to the job Soldiers might be performing while there. That is why the recent training the Soldiers of the Army Reserve 453rd Transportation Company from Houston received with Crane Army Ammunition Activity has been an exciting addition to their preparation.

"Here on Crane, we are able to get a different sort of training that is tailored more specifically to our deployed mission whereas most units only get the convoy live-fire training, the ranges and all the more Soldier specific tasks," unit commander Capt . Nick Catechis explained. "We are getting more Military Occupation Specialties specific tasks like forklift operations, experience handling and packaging ammunition of all different sorts, and processing documents. It is kind of nice because we get to see from this end everything that goes into it so that when we see it oversees it completes the circle. We get to see the entire process."

The 453rd is the latest of Army, Navy and Marine Corps Reservists taking advantage of Crane Army's unique ability to provide ammunition and cargo handling experience to deploying service members. The 453rd brought 82 of its 96 deploying reservists to Crane who performed jobs like truck drivers, document handlers, forklift operators and mechanics.

"The Soldiers love (the training)," Catechis said. "They like to do all the Soldiers things - all the things we have to do like shooting the weapons and going to the ranges. But when it comes down to it, this is what they like to do. A lot of them have similar jobs on the civilian side. A lot of our mechanics are mechanics on the civilian side. A lot of our welders are welders on the civilian side. It is great for them to transfer that experience and do what they love to do."

"I wouldn't even classify this as training as I would working hands on," he said. "Because of the workload they have here, there wasn't a lot of time to sit back and get used to the job. So it has been great experience just as it will be over there. Soldiers show up in the morning and go out to their workplaces and are engaged throughout the day."

Catechis' comments were echoed by many of his Soldiers in the company. Sgt. First Class Reynaldo Milliam-Velazquez, the unit's First Sergeant, said the training has been enjoyable because the Soldiers know what they are doing and went straight to work when they got here.

"The training at Crane has been great. The Soldiers have learned how to operate the forklift, the packaging of materials as well as building the blocking and bracing materials. They have been working with ammo. The sort of stuff that we are going be doing over there. So basically we are getting realistic training based on what we are going to be doing over there," Milliam-Velazquez said. "The Soldiers are very positive and motivated because they like what they do."

Another aspect many of the Soldiers like is working with the knowledgeable civilians at Crane. Milliam-Velazquez said, "The civilians have been very flexible. They have been coaching and teaching these young Soldiers on how to do the job. The civilians have been here a long time and they have a lot of experience, so they are projecting that experience and teaching our young Soldiers and teaching them how to do it."

Catechis said Crane Army's Reserve Liaison Lance Daters has been a key person in making the training go smoothly and ensuring the Soldiers had everything they needed for success. He said, "The civilians have bent over backwards to get us what we need. Lance Daters has a lot of connections on post with different agencies. So if we need to get people more time on forklifts he can do that. If we need to get someone to do more with their MOS, he really has worked hard to tailor it to the individual Soldier."

This will be the third deployment to Afghanistan for the transportation company. Catechis said about half of his company has deployed before, so the training allows Soldiers with experience a chance to mentor newer unit members and for everyone to pick up new skills.

Spec. Jack Flores added, "Over in Afghanistan, in order to bring our stuff back we have to block and brace our own material and we didn't know how, so now we are going to know how."

CAAA was established in Oct. 1977 and is a tenant of the Navy Region Midwest, Naval Support Activity Crane. The Army activity maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles and related components

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