By Mrs. Jennifer Bacchus (AMC)June 27, 2019
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- The 266th Ordnance Company from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, are participating in Patriot Bandoleer 2019. Their mission is to receive, transport and store munitions in Anniston Munitions Center's igloos at Anniston Army Depot.
Patriot Bandoleer 2019 is a training mission, enhancing the readiness of Army forces by pairing Reserve Component units with munitions centers which can utilize their transportation and ordnance experience.
The leadership of the 266th is taking full advantage of the training experience by ensuring each Soldier has an opportunity to operate each piece of equipment and perform every aspect of the mission.
"My focus is to make sure everyone gets a little bit of experience on everything," said Staff Sgt. David Molina, the sole non-commissioned officer for the first round of troops at ANMC.
The first rotation arrived at the end of May and was comprised of 16 Soldiers, 14 of which were E4 or below in rank.
For some of them, it was their first annual training.
Pvt. Wesley Perez graduated high school in June 2018 and joined the unit directly out of Advanced Individual Training in November 2018.
Prior to their arrival at ANMC, the Soldiers, including Perez, received specialized training on the equipment they would use during the exercise.
"I had never driven a forklift and I didn't know many of the terms they use. I didn't know what an igloo was, because in AIT it was called by a different term," Perez said. "Everything here is new for me because I only have months in the unit."
This is also the first AT for the only officer in the group, 2nd Lt. Eduardo Santiago-Colon.
"This is my first Army annual training, so now I have a visual of how things move on a depot or an ammunitions storage area," he said. "It's a good training experience that will help us be more proficient in the future in upcoming deployments."
Unlike many training environments, where real-world conditions are simulated, Patriot Bandoleer gives Soldiers the ability to train with equipment they may use with real munitions.
"You can't replicate a real world mission in a training environment. We can try to, but, what better way to give these Soldiers a better way to become proficient in their craft than allowing them to move some real munitions," said Sgt. Maj. Shontina Edwards, Operations Sergeant Major for the Joint Munitions Command.
The second group of Soldiers from the unit arrived at ANMC in mid-June and the third group arrived in mid-July.
"We're the smallest group of the three rotations," said 2nd Lt. Omega Perez, the officer in charge of the third group. "It's a great opportunity, for me and for them, to be here."
Due to the small numbers in the third rotation, Perez' Soldiers were assisted by members of the Tennessee National Guard's 230th Sustainment Brigade.
The ordnance training is important for the 266th.
"We are the only ordnance company in the Caribbean, so we handle all the munitions operations in the Caribbean," said Molina.
They also have deployments planned in the near future to various locations.
The Soldiers rotate each day, ensuring cross-training with everyone else in the group and building camaraderie and trust throughout the unit.
"We are like a family," said Perez.
The mission centers on transporting and storing nitroguanidine, a substance used in propellants. As truckloads arrive from Tennessee, the Soldiers of the 266th offload them using a Terex stacker, then unpack each container and convey the contents to various igloos for storage.
The exercise is equally important for the Anniston Munitions Center and the other munitions organizations involved, as they are able to help Soldiers achieve readiness while fulfilling their own mission requirements.
"The Soldiers from the 266th are living up to the challenges of the mission, and leaving a positive impression on the entire ANMC Team. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with such a professional organization," said Lt. Col. Roshun Steele, commander of ANMC.
For each unit involved in the mission -- from those who load the trucks in Tennessee to those who carry the munitions and those who receive and store at the final destination -- the goal is readiness, knowing you can do the job whenever called upon.
The entire mission began in May, when the 1103rd Transportation Battalion from the Alabama National Guard moved 160 empty munitions containers to Milan, Tennessee.
From there, the containers were loaded with munitions and transported to Alabama by the 1687th Transportation Company of the Mississippi National Guard, the 432nd Army Reserve Transportation Company from Puerto Rico and the 1175th and 1172nd Transportation Companies from the Tennessee National Guard.
"Patriot Bandoleer has been a great opportunity to allow Soldiers to become proficient in their craft," said Edwards. "There are limited opportunities for Soldiers to become proficient in their craft at their home station or in a home station environment. This Patriot Bandoleer mission these Soldiers are out there doing in Anniston and in Milan has given them experience that has been invaluable."
"I hope this experience will help them and will help us to prepare our unit to be ready to deploy at any time," said Molina.