• Robert Helsley, (right), an ammunition inspector at Crane Army Ammunition Activity helps secure a trailer for departure. Civilians and Soldiers work together during Operation Golden Cargo, which creates a synergy between the two.

    Loading for the long haul

    Robert Helsley, (right), an ammunition inspector at Crane Army Ammunition Activity helps secure a trailer for departure. Civilians and Soldiers work together during Operation Golden Cargo, which creates a synergy between the two.

  • Sgt. Timothy Zuber, 221st Ordnance Company, operates a forklift to load ammunition onto a trailer during Operation Golden Cargo. Thousands of pounds of ordnance are loaded every day during OGC for movement to various Army ammo depots.

    Loading for the long haul

    Sgt. Timothy Zuber, 221st Ordnance Company, operates a forklift to load ammunition onto a trailer during Operation Golden Cargo. Thousands of pounds of ordnance are loaded every day during OGC for movement to various Army ammo depots.

CRANE ARMY AMMUNITION ACTIVITY, Ind.- Spc. Jason Levesque's muscles strain as he ratchets the buckle connected to the strap holding down 1,500 pounds of explosives on the deck of a flatbed truck. He knows if he was to err in his judgment of how tight is tight enough to keep the cargo securely in place for its journey down the highways and byways of Middle America, disaster could result. So, he checks and re-checks until the strap is as taut as a finely-tuned guitar string, then moves on to the next. The shoulders of the Soldiers, whose responsibility this tremendous burden, rest upon toil in obscurity in the Indiana wilderness. However, the importance of their task is mission-essential for Operation Golden Cargo to be successful.

"Everyone out here knows what they're doing," said Levesque, of the 221st Ordnance Company, from Ft. Wayne, Ind. "You have to keep pulling down on the loading straps until there's no slack."

There's no slack in the straps or slacking off for these Soldiers, as they load as many as six trucks per day, or more, if called upon.

"You just have to be flexible and roll with the punches," said Levesque, a native of nearby Bloomington, Ind. "We start at 7 a.m. and have been out here as late as 9:30 p.m."

Levesque also had nothing but kind words for the non-uniformed personnel the 221st has worked alongside during OGC.

"The civilians have been a lot of help," he said. "The process is a bit different stateside compared to overseas in theater."

Robert Helsley, a former Marine and ammunition inspector who has worked at Crane Army Ammunition Activity for six years, has also found a mutual respect for his counterparts, he said.

"It's great to have the Soldiers out here," said Helsley. "They pay attention to detail and I'm especially impressed with their forklift-driving skills."

One of those heavy-equipment operators is Sgt. Timothy Zuber, an ammunition NCO with the 221st, who said the training his troops are receiving during a real-world mission such as OGC is invaluable.

"This is an opportunity to actually do what our jobs involve, as opposed to battle assemblies, where we don't get the chance to do this kind of work," said Zuber, a veteran of 5 A,A1/2 years in the Army, including a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. "We try to fit in as much training as we can during these two weeks."

Spc. Justin Collie of the 221st said safety is paramount in their day-to-day operations.

"You just have to be careful and do what you're supposed to do," said Collie. "We center the trucks as they pull in, so we can load from both sides of the trailer with two forklifts at once."

Collie also mentioned the camaraderie amongst the mixed crew.

"The civilians are awesome," he said. "They're right there to help us and we get along great."

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