REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The Army’s oldest career program will mark its centennial anniversary this spring.
Since 1920, the Quality Assurance Specialist (Ammunition Surveillance), or QASAS, career program has been marked by a reputation of providing first-hand ammunition and explosives expertise to Soldiers on the frontlines.
“For a hundred years QASAS have deployed to provide ammunition support to every conflict our nation has been in, from the Bataan Death March, to forward in Vietnam, Panama, and the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said QASAS Frank Wilson, who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan seven times since 2003. “We are right alongside the Soldiers when there is a conflict, and that gives them a level of confidence that when we say their ammunition is good to go, they know it’s good to go.”
Known as Career Program 20 (CP20), the role of the QASAS is to be a commander’s ammunition expert, with responsibilities including explosives safety, ammunition serviceability, packaging, transportation and safe storage and handling procedures.
“Our sole purpose is to provide commanders and Soldiers serviceable ammunition,” said Ron Mathewson, the QASAS CP-20 career program manager. “We ensure the warfighter has ready and reliable assets. We also ensure that commanders understand the health of their stockpile. These are technical and detailed functions so we require many unique features to our career field to make sure our careerists continuously evolve.”
A small community, there are a little over 300 QASAS around the Army. The career field requires years of training, as well as a mobility agreement, and similar to the military, job assignments and promotions are managed centrally by the career management office.
“Unlike many careers, a QASAS cannot be hired at the installation-level. It is all centrally managed based on the needs of the Army,” said Mathewson.
QASAS apprenticeship positions are allocated based on Army needs and availability of Army Career Program Development funding. The CP20 career program then hires apprentices to begin a 24-month highly structured training program at the Defense Ammunition Center, McAlester, Oklahoma. The classroom portion of the program is approximately 12 months of intensive academic and hands on training. From there they move to on-the-job training, either at an Army depot or an Ammunition Supply Point where they work alongside a journeyman QASAS, to complete the remainder of the 24 months training.
“Job assignments are progressively changing focus to give everyone a broader knowledge of the enterprise,” said Mathewson, who has moved more than 10 times during his 33 years as a QASAS.
After more than 24 months of training, QASAS are considered journeymen and will continue to move around the Army throughout their career to experience the entire ammunition enterprise.
“The mobility and routine movement of personnel within the career field is what gives us such broad experience,” said QASAS Steve Caskey, Army Materiel Command operations (G-3) supply capabilities. “QASAS will typically move through a variety of assignments (depots, ammunition supply points, overseas tours, headquarters level assignments and so forth. These assignments also allow opportunities for the careerist to occupy leadership and supervisory positions. At the end of the day, an average general schedule 12 (GS-12) QASAS has managed to accumulate a wide variety of experience which is a crucial resource for commanders.”
It’s also the size of the career field and constant mobility that creates a sense of community in the QASAS program, said Mathewson.
“So many QASAS have been in the line of danger so it’s important that we have that network to support our families,” said Mathewson about how more than 65% of the career field has deployed one or multiple times. “When moving around the Army so much your children and your spouse all become a part of the QASAS family.”
Mathewson said that tight-knit network and knowing the importance of their mission is why the career program has lasted 100 years.
“The careerist are in this because they love what they do, and the reason they do it is to support the Soldier,” said Mathewson. “Part of the reason we have been around for 100 years is because of the skills and knowledge we possess and can pass on that information to the commanders and leadership to provide them the level of confidence they need when making critical decisions regarding there ammunition stockpile.”
From the beginnings as Surveillance Inspectors, testing smokeless powder to the modern day QASAS trained by the Defense Ammunition Center, the career program has grown with the ammunition it supports to ensure the right ammunition, in the right condition, is delivered to warfighters in the right quantities, at the right time and place, said Mathewson.
“We must recognize and express gratitude to those careerist, both past and present that have sacrificed and dedicated themselves in this capacity,” Mathewson said. “The U.S. military forces and the nation have been well served by this program and its people, and it has had a profound impact on our ability to support the warfighter during the 21st Century.”