ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Approximately 240 Army Reserve Soldiers trained at Anniston Army Depot for two weeks, beginning July 6, as part of Golden Cargo, a nationwide training mission.

The 826th and 395th Ordnance Companies from Wisconsin as well as five transportation companies from Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico came together with their command battalion, the 828th Transportation Battalion, headquartered in Livingston, Ala., to transport 1,500 short tons of 155 mm. projectiles 450 miles to Crane, Ind.

The Soldiers were supported while on duty here by another group of reservists, the 4224th U.S. Army Hospital of Iowa.

In a few short days, these units from various areas of the United States learned to work together as a team and, with the assistance of the Anniston Munitions Center, were instructed in the proper techniques to safely move munitions from storage and transport them over long distances.

"All of these Soldiers came together and, in less than two days, we were executing our mission," said Lt. Col. Charles Joines of the 828th Transportation Battalion.

Joines thanked ANMC and ANAD for the logistical support provided to his troops, from staging ammunition for each day's load to efficiently performing security and equipment inspections, saying the assistance made the Soldiers feel like part of the depot family.

"It all came down to teamwork," said Joines. "You would think we had been working together for months at this point."

"We staged 3,486 pallets of 155 mm. artillery rounds and assisted the Soldiers in inspecting and loading 74 trailer loads for movement to Crane Army Ammunition Activity in Indiana where the rounds will be demilitarized," said Lt. Col. Randall DeLong, commander of ANMC. "We received fantastic support from ANAD staff and security in this effort and all of the Soldiers expressed appreciation for the hospitality of ANAD/ANMC employees and the surrounding communities."

During the first days of the mission, ANMC employees were more hands-on with the Soldiers -- using a form of the buddy system to ensure each reservist was familiar with the equipment and knew how to handle munitions. Then, as the troops became more confident in their abilities and the ANMC employees were confident in the Soldiers' abilities, the civilians stepped back, taking on an advisory role in the training.

"The Soldiers developed a level of trust with the civilians," said Command Sgt. Maj. Luis Rosario of the 828th.

Each reservist came in with a different amount of experience with munitions and the Golden Cargo mission. Some, like Pfc. Damon Gutsch of the 395th Ordnance Company, had very little experience.

"My military occupation specialty is a firefighter, so I had not been around ammunition before," he said. "We've all learned the basics and now I know how to detach and reattach trailers from trucks as well as how to use a forklift."

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Schnering of the 826th Ordnance Company was on the other end of the spectrum. With 17 years of military service in the Ordnance Corps, he has participated in eight Golden Cargo missions.

"I've had some type of participation in either planning the mission or doing it for eight years," he said, adding that he had been to most of the sites participating in the Golden Cargo mission.

"This is the same mission we would be doing overseas, but here we are able to do it in a peacetime setting," said Schnering.

The Golden Cargo mission began in 1991 as a way for the Joint Munitions Center, ANMC's higher headquarters, to quickly and efficiently execute Base Realignment and Closure actions while saving taxpayer money. Though it is no longer needed for BRAC movements, it has become an annual training exercise, according to JMC.

"It provides hands-on training for reserve component ordnance and transportation units that they can't get at their home stations, and saves JMC about $1 million a year," said Stephen Abney, public affairs officer for JMC.

To-date, Golden Cargo has transported more than 315,000 tons of ammunition over 19.5 million miles and trained more than 27,000 Soldiers.

Page last updated Thu July 19th, 2012 at 13:03