(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

A modular ammunition transfer point is established at an isolated forward operating base and run by an ammunition supply section. A seasoned staff sergeant, 89B, and a newly appointed warrant officer, 890A, lead the section. As the ammunition support activity begins their daily work, they encounter a problem that many other similar units face across the U.S. Army. They are not authorized to perform inspections of the ammunition, assign, or change condition codes reporting to the Army if it is good or bad. While this seems counterintuitive, it has been the way of the Army Ammunition Surveillance Program since establishing the Department of the Army Civilian Quality Assurance Specialist, Ammunition Surveillance (QASAS). Army ammunition surveillance is accomplished under the technical direction of a QASAS. The outcome leaves mission-critical gaps at tactical level units that do not have an assigned QASAS.

Army regulations describe the Ammunition Surveillance Program as an integral part of the Ammunition Stockpile Reliability Program. The program is executed by ammunition surveillance personnel and applies to all Army organizations with the mission of receipt, storage, issue, maintenance, and ammunition and explosives (AE) surveillance. In the Army, the QASAS manages and executes the Army’s Ammunition Surveillance Program. The QASAS was established in the 1920s, but the ammo specialist program was formally established in August 1983. With an approximate range of 300-700 civilian employees worldwide registered in the QASAS program, depending on the time frame, all these employees had to sign mobility agreements indicating a willingness to move where needed. For a century, the QASAS have deployed, providing ammunition support from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The QASAS moves through assignments such as Ammunition Depots, Ammunition Supply Points, and headquarters level assignments. The career civilians reach leadership and supervisory positions with various ammunition organizations. But before they can become leaders, they must undergo an extensive training program. The training includes a two-year intern program, divided into two phases. The first includes formal training presented by the Defense Ammunition Center at McAlester, Oklahoma. The interns must successfully pass 12 courses, which are mandatory by the program. The second phase includes another year of on-the-job training shadowing experienced QASAS at continental United States Ammunition Depot. Once the employee completes both phases, they become a journeyperson. Through their extensive training and progressive assignments, experienced QASASs have been the standard-bearer of the Army’s Ammunition Surveillance Program.

Within army ammunition units, attached civilian personnel, the QASAS, perform ammunition surveillance. In the late 1980s, the Army had military ammunition inspectors with military occupational skill, 55X. The military inspectors were recruited from the ammunition career management field and received additional formal training. The training concentrated on the inspection of conventional munitions. The military inspectors’ formal training and practical experience once provide adequate technical proficiency for military service members to work alongside QASAS. Those days have long since passed. As the Army begins to look at peer and near-peer threats for combat in large-scale combat operations, change must occur for munitions operations to keep up.

Certification Level Quality Assurance-Navy

An example of how the Army’s Ammunition Surveillance Program can reorganize ammunition surveillance personnel is the Navy and Marine Corps personnel AE handling qualification and certification program and the Air Forces’ Senior Munitions Inspector certification. The U.S. Navy had a lesson learned with the mishap incident involving a flare aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34) in 1966 that resulted in a significant loss of life and significant ship damage. As a result, the Navy established an extensive explosive handling personnel qualification and certification program.

Operational Navy Instruction (OPNAV) 8023.24C provides guidance and allows commands having a mission involving AE with an effective administrative tool for maintaining a successful explosives qualification and certification program. The instruction sets the standard to validate the program through documentation and the use of a training plan. The Navy instruction applies to all Navy personnel, ashore and afloat. The Navy qualification and certification program includes an approved training plan, a board chair, and a minimum of two board members. With a sufficient number of qualified and certified personnel to support the unit’s daily AE operations. Individual certifications are documented using OPNAV 8020/5 Personnel Ammunition and Explosives Handling Qualification and Certification. The certification process begins with identifying positions requiring certification and determining the specific task required, the certification levels, and the type of AE handled.

Qualification and certification levels are universally applicable in the Navy. While advanced certification from one level to the next is not mandatory, it must be maintained annually to perform explosive tasks and operations. All training to support the certification is completed by on-the-job or through formal/informal training and maintained for the duration of the certification level in an online system or on forms using manual records. Qualification and certification levels include the following:

  • Team Member—basic safety precautions for the task and AE concerned.
  • Individual— sufficient knowledge and has demonstrated the proficiency to be entrusted to safely and reliably perform the work task alone.
  • Team Leader— sufficient knowledge and has demonstrated proficiency to direct others in performing the work task safely.
  • Quality Assurance— must have detailed knowledge to manage applicable AE to include personnel designated to determine AE material condition.
  • Safety Observer— sufficient knowledge and experience of applicable safety procedures, functioning of safety devices, and working knowledge of work task procedures to determine potential outcomes and risks.

Two variations of the qualifications are multiple levels, where an individual can hold more than one certification and for an individual still in a learning phase known as in-training. Typically, the Quality Assurance/ Safety Observer are held together and known as QASOs. The Marine Corps follows Marine Corps order 8023.3C and applies to all activities and tenant commands on any installation where marines handle AE. Marine personnel assigned to Navy commands follow OPNAV 8023.24C or regulation authorized by an appropriate agreement.

Quality Assurance Qualification and Certification-USMC

For the Marine Corps, personnel requiring quality assurance qualification and certification have a rank and grade requirement of corporal (E-4) or above and have the Team Leader certification level. Emphasis is placed on the basis for qualification for an individual to have documented skills and training, task-oriented experience, and understanding current rules, regulations, and local standard operating procedures. The critical point is that everything must be documented in their training record before certification. Moreover, the individual must possess detailed knowledge of inspection criteria to determine proper storage and determine that AE will function adequately using applicable directives. Certification of qualified personnel and all explosives device families and work task operations that an individual is certified require semiannual training.

While there are slight differences between the Navy and Marine Corps qualification and certification programs, the Air Force Senior Munitions Inspector program follows an entirely different example for the Army’s Ammunition Surveillance Program to restructure ammunition surveillance personnel to meet tactical level operations.

Senior Munitions Inspector-Air Force

Air Force manual 21-201 implements the Air Force’s munitions management at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels in peacetime and wartime. The instructions give one of the most straightforward examples of how to restructure the Army Ammunition Surveillance Program. An Air Force senior munitions inspector must hold a special experience identifier (SEI 836) and have two years of continuous munitions inspector experience within the last 48 months. Alternatively, they could have attended the Air Force education and training in resident or with a mobile training team course within the last 48 months. The straightforward instructions for Senior Munitions Inspector qualifications are because they are responsible for munitions supervision of the following:

  • Make sure completion of required munitions inspections.
  • Execute essential Product Assurance duties and responsibilities.
  • Manage the munitions inspection-training program.
  • Development and execution of stockpile surveillance and preservation plans and schedules.
  • Make sure proper marking, packaging, and shipping of munitions.

The Air Force Munitions Inspector is part of their munitions management and is not a separate function performed by another entity but performed by their non-commissioned officer in munitions squadrons. They take ownership of the entire spectrum of the ammunition mission.

Conclusion

The other services are an example of the performance of Ammunition Surveillance Programs. While QASASs have managed and executed the Army’s Ammunition Surveillance Program since the 1920s and performed admirably in many theaters, it has come at a cost. The rest of the Army ammunition surveillance personnel with billeted positions of ammunition inspector, senior ammunition inspector, and ammunition warrant officer can go through their entire career without ever performing the task of ammunition surveillance.  It would be unlikely that the military occupational skill for ammunition inspector would be reestablished. But it could with formal training initiatives providing an Army additional skill identifier and approved training plans for units, with supplemented certification levels. The desired outcome can be achieved—that land forces can perform inspections of the munitions providing serviceable munitions for the warfighter to win in large-scale combat operations.

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Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael K. Lima is a Training with Industry participant at Raytheon Missile Defense. He is assigned to the Student Detachment, aligned under Training and Doctrine Command and Center for Initial Military Training. He was the ammunition warrant officer for 10th Support Group, at Torii Station, Okinawa, Japan, and the accountable officer for the ammunition supply point at Kadena Air Base. He holds a Doctorate in Business Administration and a master's degree from Baker College Center for Graduate Studies.

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This content is published online in conjunction with the Oct-Dec 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.

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