By John B. SnyderSeptember 18, 2013
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Sept. 18, 2013) -- A final shipment of 60mm mortars left the Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y., this week en route to the Afghanistan National Army and with each crate was a tremendous sense of pride that the arsenal is helping the president to achieve his goal of bringing 34,000 troops home from Afghanistan by 2014.
The Arsenal announced last February that it received a $5.9 million contract to provide the Afghanistan National Army with approximately 900, 60mm mortar systems.
The former arsenal commander, Col. Mark F. Migaleddi, said in February that this was a very aggressive fielding with up to 150 systems to be sent out in the first 30 days upon receipt of the order.
"This order not only reflects the high confidence the Department of Defense has on the arsenal's ability to rapidly support the warfighter, but also speaks volumes to the importance of DOD maintaining an Army-owned and -operated manufacturing center," Migaleddi said in regards to the rapid fielding schedule that the arsenal promised and has now delivered.
To put this fielding challenge into perspective, Lt. Col. William McDonough, the Army's Program Manager for the 60mm order, said this type of order would typically take the Army about two to three years to achieve. The Arsenal completed the order in less than eight months.
"This was a great team effort and the fact that we could complete the order in about seven months says a lot about the strong relationship we (Army program managers) have with the Watervliet Arsenal," McDonough said.
McDonough validated that the rush to get this order into the hands of the Afghanistan army was to support the President's goal to get 34,000 U.S. troops home by the end of 2014. In essence, the sooner the Afghanistan army is equipped and trained, the sooner U.S. troops may come home.
This week's shipment of 92 mortar systems to the Afghanistan National Army completed the arsenal's role in the U.S. State Department's Foreign Military Sales program, or FMS, to equip the Afghanistan Army with 60mm mortar systems. FMS is a program that provides sales of U.S. arms, defense equipment, defense services, and military training to foreign governments.
"There is a tremendous sense of pride and professionalism for us to be at the tip of the sphere of the national security strategy by supporting the Afghans in their own mission in taking over the fight, thus allowing our servicemen and women to come home," said Col. Lee H. Schiller Jr., the current arsenal commander, as the final crates were being sealed.
According to Ray Gaston, the Arsenal's chief of the Production Planning and Control Division, the main part of the contract required the Arsenal to act as a staging area for the various parts of the 60mm mortar system that are being collected from other Army installations. Upon the receipt of the parts, which consisted of such things as barrels and base plates, the Arsenal packaged them into complete mortar systems and then shipped to Afghanistan. The contract also required traditional manufacturing of select parts for the mortar system.
The 60mm mortar system is used primarily by the infantry as an indirect fire weapon when a high angle trajectory is required to hit enemy troops, materiel, and positions. It has a maximum range of about 3,500 meters.
The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th year of continuous service to the nation on July 14, 2013.
Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million.