CRANE, Ind. – For years, Crane Army Ammunition Activity’s depot operations directorate has touted its surge capacity as one of the most important pillars of the activity’s readiness. In August, this capability was put to the test when an order arrived for more than one million munitions items to be shipped within 14 hours to support the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division with their Immediate Reaction Force mission in Afghanistan. Crane Army workers ultimately helped to equip these warfighters and other units with the munitions needed to support the evacuation from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
The first of several notifications came in to the depot operations center that hot August day at 2:15 p.m. after the workforce had already labored for hours under the dual threats of potential heat casualties and a looming thunderstorm.
“From the beginning, we took a logistical enterprise approach to the mission. It had to be a team effort across every aspect of depot operations,” Paul Allswede, interim director of depot operations, said. “Everyone immediately got into a battle rhythm, and nobody complained about staying late.”
Operations had to shift quickly to ensure the right people were in the right places. Field crews were diverted from their scheduled missions around the installation to locate and deliver materiel to one of Crane Army’s shipping buildings. The transportation team requested commercial conveyances for the munitions. Quality Assurance provided materiel inspection to ensure the quality of munitions as they arrived from storage magazines. CAAA’s Army Operations Center performed as tactical operational center for ongoing efforts as crews were moving around the installation and commercial trucks arrived. The race against time to fill the order was on.
“They executed the mission flawlessly,” Allswede said. “We empowered our team to always make the right decisions, which helps them become critical thinkers.”
CAAA ultimately sent 1.1 million individual munitions for destroying materiel and non-lethal munitions for crowd control to the units that supported the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Munitions were used for the non-combatant evacuation operation in Kabul and aided the military’s mission to evacuate civilians, demilitarize weapons and equipment that would otherwise be left behind and to keep troops safe throughout their deployment. Crane Army’s depot operations supported six IRF missions by sending shipments to five destinations around the U.S., each departing prior to the 14 hour requirement.
Workers across CAAA’s depot operations pulled together to ensure such a critical mission timeline was met. Many of these workers put on their steel-toed boots to perform tasks outside of their normal duty and stayed until the last shipment departed the installation around 2 a.m. the next day.
“Across the directorate, our workforce was going above and beyond, and really stepped up in order to get the job done,” Jesse Reed, supervisor inventory management specialist, said. “In depot operations, we have the knowledge and ability to become an assembly line to continuously keep CAAA in motion.”
The CAAA IRF support team was comprised entirely of volunteers – from operators at shipping and receiving buildings, to supervisors and staff members across the depot operations directorate.
“These workers, from across DO, were all really good,” Terri Colglazier, materials handler supervisor, said. “We pulled off this mission because we’re adaptable. Everyone knew how to do more than one job, and they knew what needed to be done and when.”
Maintaining morale among the workforce that stayed until 2 a.m. wasn’t difficult. They understood the dire importance of ensuring that quality munitions were delivered to troops as soon as possible.
“That’s our business – to get them what they need, at the moment they need it,” Colglazier said. She noted that nobody complained or asked to leave early while the IRF support team spent 12 hours preparing documents, inspecting and bracing munitions and loading trucks.
After departing the installation at all hours of the night, shipments of munitions made their way to the 82nd Airborne, a division of paratroopers who are charged to mobilize, deploy, and engage conflicts anywhere on the globe within 18 hours if needed. The 1st Brigade Combat Team had a 96 hour deadline to be equipped and on the ground in Afghanistan – a standard which Crane Army helped the unit exceed.
“Our Soldiers cannot deploy and win the fight without the support of installations like Crane Army and the organic industrial base—especially the Immediate Reaction Force,” Lt. Col. David Moore, 18th Airborne Corps transportation officer, said. The units supported during August’s IRF mission are known around the world for their lethality and ability to deploy quickly, meaning the issuing of individual and vehicular munitions may need to occur on short notice.
“We received trucks from all over the Joint Munitions Command footprint in under 38 hours. That was nearly 15 million rounds of ammunition in 40 percent of the time promised to deliver,” Sgt. 1st Class William Dubnansky, chief ammunition non-commissioned officer for the 82nd Airborne Division, said.
Dubnansky remarked that it has been a long time since ammunition depots have needed to rapidly fill massive orders within the continental United States and issue them to Soldiers in a 96 hour window. Due to the speed and precision of their work, CAAA’s depot operations team was able to provide Soldier security and a multitude of capabilities in order for a lethal group of paratroopers to be on the ground in Afghanistan in less than four days, equipped with individual and bulk munitions.
“No matter the threat, our Soldiers had the munitions capability to endure and win that fight,” Dubnansky said.
Dubnansky has been in the Army for 15 years as a Soldier specializing in ammunition. For the IRF mission, he oversaw receiving, downloading and storing shipments from ammunition depots across the country and issuing the munitions to Soldiers.
“In my time with the Army, I’ve never seen anything like what these ammunition depots were able to pull off,” Dubnansky said. “I will now strive to prepare my Soldiers to perform as well as Crane Army is able to. They set the bar high.”
Managing IRF shipments across the nation was a laborious effort that required effective communication from ammunition depots to the Immediate Reaction Force. CAAA’s Army Operations Center played an important role in ultimately equipping Soldiers at Joint Base Charleston with ammunition they needed in less than 96 hours by being able to pinpoint where field teams and commercial drivers were on the installation during the operation.
“A vital part of the support we received was the consistent communication with the JMC enterprise and visibility on the munitions as they departed their depots and arrived at our issuance site,” Moore said. “The hard work of the CAAA workforce and the organic industrial base to support the IRF’s activation, response timeline and readiness posture is a testament to the team effort it takes to make the rapid deployment of the IRF possible.”
Crane Army’s depot operations directorate remains prepared to support the military at the drop of a dime. Supervisors are ensuring that members of their team are adaptable and capable of performing more than one job, in the event that another surge occurs.
During the surge mission Ross Nolley, the supervisor of a separate CAAA shipping and receiving building that was not being used, encouraged his workforce to join the effort by first volunteering himself. As a veteran with experience as a former Army sergeant, he knew that his team would be likely to emulate the example that he set.
“It was an honor to still serve our country,” he said of being part of the effort to keep forces in Afghanistan safe during the withdrawal.
This mission was a collective effort of more than 50 members of the Crane Army workforce, each understanding the importance of the mission and not going home until it was complete. Supervisors and staff members from the directorate herald the showcase of teamwork as more distinct than any one individual’s actions. It was the team’s readiness that stood out that day.
“This is what depot operations is all about – pulling together to get the job done quickly and accurately so that we can support the warfighter,” said Reed. “On that day, we shined in what we do best.”
About Crane Army
Crane Army Ammunition Activity produces and provides conventional munitions requirements in support of U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. It is one of 17 installations of the Joint Munitions Command and one of 23 organic industrial bases under the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which include arsenals, depots, activities and ammunition plants. Established Oct. 1977, it is located on