How Safe is Your Arsenal?

By Paul Cummins, McAlester Army Ammunition PlantAugust 20, 2018

How Safe is Your Arsenal?
Safely handling and storing ammunition and explosives in a tactical environment isn't as simple as some think, but it's much easier when you ask for and get the help you need. Remember, you can meet mission requirements better when you have a safe an... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCK, Ala. (August 20, 2018) - In a tactical environment, a Soldier's access to ammunition and explosives is virtually unlimited. Downrange, Soldiers may go to bed with their boots on, their web gear full of grenades hanging on the back of their bunk and a Light Anti-Tank Weapon stored on the floor underneath. As a Soldier, what are you to do to keep yourself and your battle buddies safe?

To begin with, Soldiers need to remember to treat weapons and ammo with respect. Never point the muzzle of a weapon at a buddy or anything you don't intend to shoot. Don't store inert or dummy munitions in the same location you store your live ammo. In addition, ensure your dummy/inert munitions are clearly marked. Inert munitions are valuable training tools; but remember, training never starts with the words, "Watch this."

Muzzle awareness and proper storage - hooah, got it. That's it, right? Not exactly. Let's say you have been designated as the ammo officer during this deployment and you are responsible for the storage of all the ammunition and explosives on your contingency operating base. Your commander informs you that you have a shipment of your unit's basic operating load showing up in two days. The previous unit's ammo officer hands you a crumpled piece of paper that is supposedly a list of their remaining ammo, tosses you the keys to some containers and jumps on the freedom bird home.

Reluctantly, you go to the first container (luckily, it's located next to your tent and the dining facility), unlock the door and peek inside. What greets you is a stack of small-arms ammo that looks like it's been there since World War II. Not only that, it looks like someone shook the container like a martini.

When you open the second container, you're relieved. This one is neatly stacked with 60 and 81 mm mortars and 105 mm rounds. They even have ammunition data cards on top. That's all good, except your unit doesn't use 105 mm rounds and doesn't even have a 105 mm gun. What's a Soldier to do? Actually, you have help. Your brigade safety officer and brigade ammunition warrant officer know about ammo and explosives safety. Besides their immediate assistance, they know ammunition specialists throughout the theater that have experience with your issues.

A good first step is to set up a visit with an ammunition logistics assistance representative. The ammo LAR is a brigade asset that will help with storage compatibility, unserviceable ammo, packing, excess ammunition and documentation. This representative works closely with quality assurance specialist ammunition surveillance and the theater explosives safety officers. The QASAS are at the larger forward operating bases' ammunition transfer holding points and ammunition supply points. The theater explosives safety officers are generally at higher headquarters. Together, with your brigade safety officer and ammo warrant officers, their jobs are to provide you the assistance needed to establish a safe and effective ammunition storage site.

Now, what can you do to help yourself? Start by organizing your ammo. Put it on pallets, separated by lot number. Record these different lot numbers and give the list to your ammo LAR or brigade ammunition warrant officer. They will review the list, focusing on items that are suspended or restricted. Let them know which munitions you don't need and what items will likely require replenishment in the future. If you know some items are unserviceable or restricted, segregate those from the rest of your assets. Again, don't store your inert/dummy/training munitions with your regular ammo.

With a complete list of all your ammo, your next step needs to be looking up net explosives weights in your "yellow book" (Hazard Classification of U.S. Military Explosives and Munitions). Using your calculator, you figure out that you have 1,500 pounds net explosives weight in your containers. Maybe having your ammo storage "conveniently" located next to your tent and the dining facility isn't such a good idea. Bring this to the attention of the COB mayor. It might be time to move your arsenal.

OK, separate ammo by lot numbers - check. Call the ammo LAR - check. Segregate unserviceable items - check. Coordinate with the COB mayor - check. Point muzzles at the bad guys only - check. Wait, what about that LAW rocket? Maybe storing it underneath your bunk isn't the best place. Come to think of it, you probably don't need the web gear with grenades hanging off the back of your bunk either. But you just convinced the COB mayor to relocate the ammo to a safer location. Consider a ready ammo storage location. Just enough to meet mission requirements, but not so much that we have to crawl over it to get to what we need. Sounds like a good recommendation for the first sergeant.

Safely handling and storing ammunition and explosives in a tactical environment isn't as simple as some think, but it's much easier when you ask for and get the help you need. Remember, you can meet mission requirements better when you have a safe and effective storage location.

Editor's note: The guidelines, tips and best practices in this article are applicable at COBs as well as forward operating bases and combat outposts.

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