February 1, 2008
How many Army civilians does it take to move a mountain' Ten.
This mountain isn't comprised of rock or soil, but millions of bullets, bombs, and grenades.
"During the beginning of Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, excess ammunition was thrown together in large heaps; it wasn't packaged properly and safety regulations weren't being followed," explained Doug Maddox, Joint Munitions Command quality assurance specialist (ammunition surveillance).
These heaps of accumulated ammunition formed what ammunition managers refer to as iron mountains.
Instead of assessing the condition and correctly repackaging the ammunition in theater, the ammunition was haphazardly packaged and immediately sent to Army ammunition depots for inspection, packaging and reissue.
The iron mountains were not the only problems faced by ammunition managers. Ammunition accountability systems tracked how many rounds were shipped to theater and how many rounds were fired, but oftentimes the calculated amount of the number of rounds that were left in theater did not match with the actual amount. Besides having an inaccurate count of remaining rounds, the location and condition of those remaining rounds were frequently unknown.
Realizing the importance of a proactive solution, Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin, commander, Army Materiel Command; Maj. Gen. Robert M. Radin, commander, Army Sustainment Command; and Brig. Gen. James E. Rogers, commander, Joint Munitions Command, created the 10-member ammunition assessment team that deployed to Iraq in August 2007.
"We went over to ensure all ammunition all the way down to the forward operating bases was stored safely and accounted for, and to address any issues from Soldiers, sailors, airmen, or
Marines. The team was a huge success and the Army has a very accurate picture of ammunition in Iraq. Troops are doing a great job in all aspects of ammunition management," said Rogers.
During the 100-day deployment, the team visited 26 forward operating bases and more than 150 battalion-size units, and assessed close to 100 percent of ammunition in the hands of the troops and 50 percent of all ammunition in theater, which equates to 96,000 tons of ammunition, according to Maddox, assessment team leader.
Team members, who came from several different organizations, included: John Barton, Jim Gahagan, Jim Gray, Doug Maddox, Dave Tipp, and Bob Wild from JMC; Ed Averill, Letterkenny Munitions Center; Bill Sykes, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant; Mike Griffith, Deseret Chemical Demilitarization Facility; and JimYoung, Department of Army G-4, Logistics.
During its deployment, the team assessed the 316th Sustainment Command, which is responsible for the oversight of all ammunition in Iraq. According to team member Averill, the 316th manages four ammunition supply points where ammunition is stored until units need it.
The team divided into three sub-teams to efficiently and effectively complete its mission of assessing ammunition. Each team visited large, major combat units and was aligned with a division, according to Averill. With their vests and helmets strapped on, their backpacks and laptops on their backs, and the sound of mortars and gun fire around them, each team flew in aircrafts or rode in convoys to all 26 forward operating bases in Iraq.
Assessing the condition of ammunition at every Brigade Combat Team was not the assessment team's only duty. During their visits to the FOBs and BCTs, they completed malfunction investigations and retrieved serial numbers from milvans to see if they were still being leased.
Team members also trained units on ammunition topics such as safety and accident prevention, and how to read lot numbers and Department of Defense Identification Codes. By the end of the deployment, 150 units received written copies of the assessment team's findings and lists of the ammunition assessed.
After site visits lasting from two days up to three weeks, the teams would return to Balad, input their data, and prepare for their next trip.
The benefits of their journeys were not only professional, but also personal.
"Working with Soldiers was the most rewarding experience," said Maddox. "I appreciate what they do and what they go through."
The findings are being used by the Soldiers, their units and JMC.
"The team's data will be used to determine what type of maintenance is needed and what type packaging, if any, is required to get the ammunition to a serviceable condition. After the level of maintenance is determined, a decision will be made to see if it is best to do maintenance on the ammunition and redistribute it to the troops, ship to other sites in theater, sell it to our coalition allies, put it on a preposition stock ship in Kuwait, or ship the ammunition back to an Army ammunition depot," said Maddox.
For the ammunition being returned to the depots, "we determined what packaging is needed to ship the ammunition home," said Averill.
Maddox added, "We will send packaging material to Iraq and hope that Soldiers will pack up excess ammunition while they are there. Ammunition is being consolidated at ASPs and will be shipped back to the states and depots with the proper packaging. We're hoping that ammunition is safer and easier to move and that there aren't any more iron mountains."