McALESTER ARMY AMMUNITION PLANT, Okla. -- Brig. Gen. David Francis, commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and director of Army Safety, took one of his first visits to the home of the Defense Department's explosives safety and conventional bomb production experts, here, Aug. 21.

Francis, who took command of USACRC two months ago, made the trip to get a firsthand look how explosives safety is handled by the Army, and to see how his team can partner with the U.S. Army Technical Center for Explosives Safety to enhance Army readiness.

During the visit, he received Defense Ammunition Center and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant mission briefings, and a tour of transportation test, explosives storage magazine and conventional bomb production facilities. He also led a working lunch discussion with safety and occupational health professionals.

One issue that repeatedly arose throughout the daylong visit was the necessity to adhere to standards for explosives safety and the load, assemble and pack of munitions.

"I believe that in the Army, we don't have safety issues, we end up having standards issues," said Francis.

"When we don't follow standards, that's when we're likely to have accidents. So standardization, and following and enforcing standards, is critical to our safety programs and loss prevention efforts in the United States Army.

"As we look at how we reduce loss in the Army, it's not just a matter of training safety professionals, it's about training leaders to follow and enforce standards that reduce and mitigate risk, and allow us to execute operations in the most dangerous places on earth, safely."

While Francis didn't lay the burden solely on safety professionals, he said the USACRC is working to provide even more training and certification opportunities for them. He said Level 1 and Level 2 explosives safety courses are currently taught at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.

"We're running a pilot program for explosives safety specialists where we will send 10 interns here, who we will track and develop throughout their careers to develop that career program," said Francis.

He said mobile training teams will be sent to MCAAP to make additional training and certification available to employees in the Safety and Occupational Health Management (CP-12) and Engineers and Scientists (Resources and Construction) (CP-18) career programs. He also wants to expand their knowledge beyond explosives safety by attending additional training at Fort Rucker.

The visit was Francis' first to any U.S. Army Materiel Command organic industrial base and it made an impression on him.

"I could not be more impressed with the professionalism of all the folks I met here at MCAAP today," said Francis. "They are passionate about their mission, they are passionate about supporting Soldiers in the field and commanders in the field, and they are passionate about enforcing standards, which is the hallmark of a professional organization."

While explosives safety was the primary purpose of the visit, it was the first time Francis saw munitions being produced.

"I've toured the facilities to see how they generate ammunition for the United States Army and it is truly a remarkable capability," said Francis.

"I believe it to truly be a strategic asset for the United States Army and the U.S. government because of the capabilities they provide to our warfighters. MCAAP, without question, provides readiness to our Army."

Col. Joseph D. Blanding, MCAAP commander, appreciated the praise and safety insights Francis shared.

"The visit was a great opportunity for our teams to show Gen. Francis how USATCES and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant contribute to our Army's readiness," said Col. Joseph Blanding, MCAAP commander. "We appreciate him taking time out of his busy schedule to look at how we conduct our business and to share his vision for safety and mitigating risk."

The Defense Ammunition Center provides expertise, training and solutions in explosives safety, transportation of hazardous materials, ammunition surveillance, logistics engineering and supports Army ammunition operations through global ammunition site inspections.

MCAAP is one of 14 installations of the Joint Munitions Command and one of 23 organic industrial base facilities under the U.S. Army Materiel Command.