FORT POLK La. — Walk through the Headquarters and Headquarters, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment orderly room and in the rear of the building, next to the gym, you will find the arms room. Arms rooms are an integral part of any unit and have a lot to do with the success of the organization.
An arms room is where all the sensitive equipment is stored, tracked and maintained. There are weapons there including rifles and side-arms, but peripheral equipment is also stored there including mortar tubes, night-vision goggles, sights and other items the units need to accomplish their mission. They are also used to house privately owned weapons for those who live in the barracks or otherwise have no safe place for storage.
Being an armorer can be a daunting job. Armorers are fiscally responsible for equipment worth millions of dollars and must be familiar with reams of regulations required by the job and a large checklist of tasks to be accomplished daily.
Amanda Pete, physical security supervisor with the Directorate of Emergency Services Physical Security Division, brought a group of new armorers and alternates to the HHC arms room to show them how to do their job properly. She chose the Geronimo arms room as an example of best practices.
“They are in the top 1% of arms rooms on the installation in the areas of security, accountability and maintenance of sensitive equipment,” she said. “They’ve proven themselves by passing inspections through the years and they always come out on top.”
During the training, Pete went through the armorer’s checklist, showing that the arms room staff is well organized.
The head armorer is Sgt. Nikolas Lukens, HHC, 1/509. According to Pete, Lukens has the arms room running like a well-oiled machine.
“We have a pretty good system set up. Before (Lukens took over) we were okay. We passed inspections and were good with sensitive items,” he said. “When I came in, I wanted to set up a system so that any armorer who came after me could hit the ground running.”
Lukens said he went through the arms room and set up systems to assist inventory, accountability and security. He talked with other sections asking them what he could do better. With the input he received, he was able to set up a smoothly running system that has made processes like drawing weapons quicker and more efficient.
It takes organization skills to ensure your arms room is within regulations and working at maximum efficiency, skills Lukens admits he needed to learn.
“I was unorganized when I first joined the Army. I had a chaotic way of organizing stuff,” he said. “When I (was assigned as armorer), it took me a while to put things in order, but once I did, I noticed I didn’t have to work as hard to maintain it.”
Lukens takes his job seriously as he is responsible for about $19 million worth of equipment. But his main concern is ensuring his Soldiers can quickly and efficiently draw the equipment they need to meet rotational Soldiers on the field of battle.
“At times, it’s stressful, but I can see the outcome of the work I’ve put in here, I see how things are going well,” he said. “I go through the checklists, refer back to my system … that reduces the stress.”
Lukens’ efforts have made the life of an HHC Soldier a lot easier. Because of the way he runs the arms room, Soldiers know when they need to draw equipment to head out to the field, the process will be as painless as possible.
“My commander and first sergeant are happy when the arms room is busy, because that means something is about to happen in the field,” Lukens said. “The processes we put in place have made my unit’s life a little easier. It shortens the timeline so they don’t need to be here before dawn to draw a weapon they need at noon. We can get the entire section drawn in about 15 minutes.”
Pete said DES inspects all arms rooms on the installation annually. She said organization is the key to running a successful arms room.
“If you aren’t doing these things well, you will get extra attention from us. The best way to be accountable for the equipment under your charge is to be organized,” she said. “If it’s disorganized and (the armorer) can’t find things, it hard to keep track of where their equipment is.”
Pete talked about the voluminous work an armorer faces when they step into the job. “There is a massive amount of paperwork involved with the job, and new armorers aren’t always ready for it. We try to give them an introduction during classroom and hands-on portions of the training,” she said.
She said the Army is searching for the right solutions to automate arms rooms systems like utilizing computers to scan items. Pete said a successful armorer needs the right personality.
“The more you care, the better job you are going to do,” she said. “I can give you a brand-new phone with all the bells and whistles, but if you don’t care about it, you’re not going to do a great job with it. Success relies on personality as much as technology and methodology.”
Lukens and his fellow armorers are setting the bar for arms room operations and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Not only are they held up as the standard for Fort Polk, they have been submitted for the Army Achievement Medal for their efforts.
“I thought I was just another armorer, doing my job like every other armorer in the Army. I knew I had a good system and was confident it was the way to do things. There are processes put in place that insured I would not have a failure when it comes to drawing equipment at any time, Lukens explained. “I felt proud when I found out our arms room was one of the best on the installation.”
Pete said when she performs an arms room inspection, she gets indications of the health of the organization.
“What I can tell about that unit is they have standards. I know that they are performing excellently on a larger scale,” she said. “I can tell just by walking through an arms room how that unit is running.”
If you are an armorer who thinks things can be done better, or you need guidance on the best method to accomplish your mission, Pete has some advice for you.
“Come to our training. Then invite us into your arms room and let us live there for a day or a week to get you on track,” she said. “We want to give you the information you need and then help you implement what you have learned, but it all starts with training.” Call (337) 531-7756 to schedule training or for more information.