BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- Quality Assurance Specialists assigned to the 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Afghanistan are an essential part of equipping the warfighter with the best and most reliable equipment available.
Aaron Anderson, a quality assurance specialist with the 401st AFSBn-Afghanistan, oversees contracted maintenance at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, as part of a thorough and comprehensive quality assurance program.
Anderson provides QA for ground maintenance items, which include Howitzers, small arms, crew-served weapons, generators and rolling stock.
"The main thing we want to do is make sure that our soldiers are supported," Anderson said. "So we go in and oversee the contractor and make sure they have the capabilities to service the weapons, provide maintenance for the soldiers on their weapons, and to provide annual services and things of that nature that the units might not be capable of doing here in theater."
Weapons maintenance under the 401st AFSBn-Afghanistan at BAF is performed by AC-First LLC, a contracted company hired to directly support Soldier.
Many of the AC-First technicians working in the Small Arms Support Center are veterans, including Lead Weapons Technician Will MacGillivray.
"When a weapon comes through the door, basically what we look at is if it can be repaired," MacGillivray said. "If it can, it needs to be done right. This is the place where you want to be the stickler. You want to be as hard on the details as you can possibly be."
The program primarily facilitates weapons inspections, cleanings, and repairs. There is also a one-for-one swap service for weapons that have been destroyed in an incident of combat or have exceeded their functional life-cycle.
"As someone who has previously done convoys in Iraq I know how important it is to have a weapon that functions," MacGillivray said. "Basically it's your lifeline. Along with your truck and your men and being able to communicate with everyone else, your weapon is your first lifeline."
Primarily, government representatives reserve the right to open and close work orders, which gives QA specialists visibility on everything that either comes in for maintenance, or goes out for use by the warfighter.
"During a full inspection the contractor breaks the weapon all the way down so we can see the internal components and really look closely at what needs to be repaired or serviced, or what needs to be replaced," Anderson said.
"After they put the weapon back together they can perform a functions check so we can make sure the weapon is going to do everything it's supposed to before you actually load it with live rounds. That gives you a clear idea that the weapon is put back together and will do what it's supposed to do when the Soldier needs it."
Although inspections are a primary function of QA oversite, Anderson and his teammates are also responsible for supporting the contractor in the best interest of the warfighter, Anderson said.
The 401st AFSBn-Afghanistan often helps contracted maintenance teams by facilitating or providing supplies and specialized tools that the contractor might not be able to get on their own.
"I've been out there. I've been in combat. I know what the soldiers need," Anderson said. "We want the Soldier to have confidence that the weapon or vehicle, or whatever they draw from us, is solid. Our main focus is quality, and that can't be taken lightly."
Anderson previously served in the Army as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and deployed in support of the Gulf War, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Both Anderson and MacGillivray emphasized how veteran experience and teamwork play a large roll in successfully equipping the warfighter.
"It's collective. We're all a team. Everybody brings a lot of experience -- different experience -- to the table," MacGillivray said.
"It's gratifying to know that all of us that are good at our jobs, and we take a lot of pride in our jobs, that when the warfighter gets his weapon back and he's outside that gate, he can press the trigger and things are going to work properly like they should."
The 401st AFSBn-Afghanistan processed 720 weapons for maintenance at BAF in fiscal year 2016 without a single weapon being returned for unsatisfactory results.
"If it goes outside that wire and it has my stamp of approval on it, I know good and well that Soldier is not going to break down and that weapon is not going to hang up, because that Soldier has the best," Anderson said.
"That's what the 401st is all about, making sure we support the warfighter's every need."