RICHMOND, KY – South Dakota National Guardsmen from the 1742nd Transportation Company found themselves a long way from home this week, getting their M915 long-haul tractor trailers loaded with munitions at Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD) in Richmond, KY for subsequent transport to Crane Army Ammunition Activity (CAAA).
The 1742nd is just one of several Army National Guard units partnering with ammo storage locations around the country as part of an Army Materiel Command (AMC) initiative called, Operation Patriot Press 2021 (OPP-21). OPP-21 provides units real-world mission work throughout AMC subordinate commands to improve Army strategic objectives in readiness and total force integration.
“Besides directly impacting overall Army Readiness,” said BGAD Commander Col. Steve Dorris, “Operation Patriot Press addresses other strategic objectives, including Total Force Integration. The exercise provides opportunity for actual missions to and from designated locations, transporting conventional munitions as required. OPP-21 provides Army National Guard (ARNG) Soldiers real-world evolutions that are both challenging and enable assessment of internal training objectives for these transportation organizations.”
While waiting to complete his vehicle inspection at the BGAD shipping center, truck driver Pfc. Grayson Irvine said he loved participating in OPP-21.
“I chose this job occupation in the Army because I love to travel,” said Irvine. “I participated in this mission last year and looked forward to doing it again during this year’s annual training. It’s exhilarating to go through big cities, see new environments, and talk to different people at the truck stops. I would never have this opportunity without being a member of the South Dakota Army National Guard.”
Besides the individual positive experiences and retention benefits for the 1742nd Transportation Company, Sgt. First Class Megan Krahn, the unit’s readiness noncommissioned officer (NCO) and assistant truck master said OPP-21 provides a long-term measurement of unit readiness other annual training experiences just can’t provide these Soldiers.
"Any time our Soldiers can get behind a wheel, they are happy and they get the hauling experiences they need,” said Krahn. “Last year during OPP-20, the unit had many new Soldiers, but most of them are back again this year, better-timed on conduct of downloads, quicker vehicle inspections, and a better understanding of what an Army transportation unit needs to do to be successful.”
According to OPP-21 Liaison (LNO) Sgt. First Class Paulie Porche, many of the Guardsmen who worked alongside the DA civilians at BGAD were impressed by their level of professionalism, technical competence, and speed of action.
“This is the fastest I have ever seen operations completed. Everyone at BGAD has been very accommodating and thorough in their work,” said Porche. “All of the Soldiers I have talked to said they would like to do this mission again because of how smooth the operations went, as well as the cleanliness and effectiveness of the facilities.”
Some of those BGAD DA Civilians work for Timothy Pelfrey, an ammunition quality inspector at BGAD. Pelfrey and other inspectors examined all ammo-related vehicles prior to loading, post loading, and all paperwork associated with transporting the outbound / inbound cargo – conventional munitions. Pelfrey said each year’s OPP is always a win-win situation for both the military units and the partnering Depots. He said even though the Soldiers are getting the training and new experiences, the DA Civilians are getting a chance to support the Warfighter in and hone their internal processes and procedures.
“Many of us are retired or former military and this gives us a chance to work closely with Service Members once again,” said Pelfrey. “We support the Warfighters by shipping conventional munitions and equipment throughout the world, but right now we are supporting the Warfighter through good quality training.”
OPP-21 will continue at BGAD for a total of six weeks, during which more than 1,000 short tons of munitions will be moved. The 1742nd Transportation Company was responsible for hauling more than 30 containers of munitions from BGAD to Crane Army Ammunition Activity (CAAA) in Indiana, while another ARNG unit from the state of Michigan conducted transport of conventional munitions between BGAD and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant (MCAAP).
“The professionalism demonstrated by the participating units and Team BGAD really stood out to me,” says Col. Dorris. “I’m very proud of the entire effort and the intense focus placed on safe execution of the mission.”