FORT BENNING, GEORGIA -- Kimberly Adams, a logistics specialist for the Fort Benning Force Modernization Office, helped to remove screws sealing plywood lids to wooden equipment crates laid out neatly in a staging area next to the post's Logistics Readiness Center's Installation Supply and Services Activity and the day's fielding and accountability task had begun.
Despite the cold weather, or "unpredictable Georgia weather," Adams had said, the fielding of several dozen sets of Army Combat Fitness Test sets -- one set per crate -- would continue.
"The only area we had available was this outside facility," she stated.
A few minutes earlier, a group of a dozen or so Soldiers from the Airborne Ranger Training Brigade had gathered at the ISSA, tasked with conducting an inventory of their crates.
Two rows of two dozen crates, eight feet long each, had been arranged in the large staging area, specifically earmarked for the unit and allowing easy access for accountability and loading onto one of the recently arrived trucks.
"Everything's checking out," stated Staff Sergeant Hector Vega after the first accountability inspection. Vega is assigned to the ARTB Logistics Office and he had teamed with another non-commissioned officer from the unit to ensure ACFT equipment sets were complete. Other teams worked on other crates.
Each box contained kettle bells, bumper plates weighing from ten to 45 pounds, a hex bar, a measuring tape, a ten-pound medicine ball and a nylon sled with strap. And, of course, barbell collars to keep the heavy bumper plates firmly on both ends of the hex bar when in use.
A laminated, one page diagram depicting what each box should contain helped to move the inventory task along.
"The kit that we've inventoried right now is complete. Everything looks nice and neat inside the box," Vega said. "We have the checklist and everything looks good to go."
Once all 24 crates and their contents were inventoried, lids were screwed back on and the crates were loaded via forklift into a nearby truck for movement to the brigade area.
Over two days, several other Fort Benning units would receive their ACFT sets in the same way. More than 300 sets were inventoried and delivered to Soldiers who would soon be testing with the gear, preparing for full implementation of the ACFT at the end of the fiscal year.
The sets were bound for every unit on Fort Benning, "from the hospital Soldiers to the security forces assistance brigade and every different organization in between," Col. Steven Carozza, military deputy for the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command's Integrated Logistics Support Center, explained. A few ACFT sets were delivered to the nearby Columbus State University Reserve Officer Candidate program.
Carozza's current priority was to head up the ILSC ACFT fielding effort, one that kept him and other team members from the ILSC and their Product Management Office partners at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, Natick, busy in the office and on the road. Together, they addressed issues from vendors, issues regarding distribution and delivery contractors, and issues concerning receiving units. They addressed problems anticipated and problems unforeseen, such as the deployment of a larger unit from Fort Bragg leaving no one in authority to sign for their ACFT gear.
"The challenge with something of this enormity," Carozza said, "is that 36,000 sets of equipment going out to almost 1,200 different locations in four months is a very, very tight timeline. Any small blip in that process or in that system can have second and third order of effects. These are the kinds of things we're working through on a daily basis while simultaneously maintaining that focus - that laser focus - within our team."
"We're doing everything within our power to help mitigate any impacts that delays may cause and get those sets of equipment out to the units as quickly as possible," he added.
Carozza and his team have a deadline of May 15, the end of the four month time-frame he had mentioned.
"Right now, (the fielding) is going well. As of today, we're still on schedule. We're working on a daily basis with the vendors who are providing the equipment to help ensure that they can meet their delivery requirements for us and then rapidly getting those sets out the door. As soon as the equipment hits the dock at a vendor location, we're getting it distributed out. That's how fast things are happening right now."
Susan Hubert, the ACFT product manager from the Natick team, stated that the overall effort of fielding more than 36,000 sets of equipment to more than one-million Soldiers, including active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard, was progressing nicely.
"We have a lot of people helping," she said, "and we're getting the support that we need. There are a lot of moving pieces and our TACOM leadership is helping."
She stated that the project had been extremely challenging and that working through the many challenges along the way had been very rewarding.
"We're on track," she enthusiastically added.
Carozza noted that there were several other issues facing Army senior leaders and he believes that timely completion of the ACFT fielding would lessen concerns related to the first major overhaul of the Army physical fitness testing process in several decades.
"If we can take this problem out of their rucksack so that they can focus on some of the other portions of implementing not just ACFT, but holistic health and fitness and that whole program for the Army, the better off we're all going to be," he said.
"It's an honor to work with the folks at Natick who are working this on the program management side, and it's an honor to work with the vendors who are out there," he added, shifting focus back to the ACFT team.
"I've had the opportunity to visit with the different manufacturers who are making the rubber plates that go into these kits and, I'll tell you, I've talked to their factory workers -- the folks on the line who are making these plates for these sets -- they are acutely aware that these pieces of equipment are going into the hands of American Soldiers and they are incredibly proud to be a part of that, to be a part of this team, to be a part of this culture, to be a part of something big for the Army."
All of the ACFT equipment is made in America and supports American small businesses.
Working to efficiently field more than 36,000 sets of ACFT equipment meets one of the Army's top priorities of readiness and ensures that Soldiers have the tools and training they need to be lethal and ready to fight and win.
About Tank-automotive and Armaments Command:
TACOM manages the Army's ground equipment supply chain, which constitutes about 60 percent of the Army's total equipment. If a Soldier drives it, shoots it, wears it or eats it, TACOM sustains it.
TACOM's Integrated Logistics Support Center executes repair parts planning and supply chain management for more than 3,500 weapon systems. These systems form the core of America's ground combat capability. When the force needs critical components delivered, whether at home or abroad, it depends on TACOM.
TACOM oversees six of the Army's manufacturing arsenals and maintenance depots across the United States, which are part of the Army's Organic Industrial Base. The industrial artisans from the Army's OIB deliver when the Army needs equipment manufactured, repaired, upgraded or modernized.
The Detroit Arsenal, home to TACOM headquarters, is the only active-duty U.S. Army installation in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Detroit Arsenal and its Michigan-based workforce of more than 6000 people contribute billions of dollars in economic impact to the region's economy each year.
TACOM's workforce includes highly skilled and uniquely qualified professionals, from engineers and industrial artisans to senior logisticians and business analysts. The largely civilian workforce is critical to supporting Army readiness around the world.