KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — In order to support NATO Allies and partners and deter further Russian aggression the U.S. has deployed thousands of Soldiers to Europe and repositioned many more across the continent.
Providing precision-grade munitions to outfit these Soldiers is a critical component to current operations in Europe — one that the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command’s ammunitions experts don’t take lightly.
Officially known as Quality Assurance Specialist (Ammunition Surveillance), about a dozen JMC QASAS personnel recently deployed to Europe from various Army depots and ammunition plants across the U.S. These ammunition experts now fall under the command and control of the 405th Army Field Support Brigade.
Positioned at multiple locations in Germany as well as forward locations like Poland, QASAS personnel are responsible for providing expert technical ammunition and explosives assistance and support to units stationed in or deployed to Europe.
Everything from Patriots, Javelins, Hellfire and TOW missiles to 105 and 155 mm artillery cannon rounds, plus 40 mm grenades, 30 mm autocannon machine gun rounds, crew served machine gun ammunition, small caliber rifle ammunition and more — the JMC QASAS ammunition experts assist units with it all.
“Everything we’re doing hinges off of the JMC campaign plan with strategic readiness, materiel readiness and munitions synchronization,” said Charles Merten, U.S. Army Materiel Command’s ammunition senior command representative, 405th AFSB. “Whether it’s for combat or for training, our job is to ensure the Soldiers have serviceable, reliable ammunition to conduct their missions and do their jobs. That’s where this entire QASAS team comes in.”
Paul Leykamm is one of the QASAS personnel deployed to Poland. Leykamm, who has 17 years of experience as a QASAS and is home-stationed at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, has been on ground in Zagan, Poland, providing Class 5 ammunition and explosives technical assistance to deployed and rotational units there for the past two months.
He and a small QASAS team are supporting elements from the XVIII Airborne Corps, V Corps, 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, 41st Field Artillery Brigade and more.
“We’re assisting them with everything from missiles on down to 5.56 mm small arms ammunition,” Leykamm said. “We help them with everything — from posture, security, safety, storage and serviceability to how to handle it, how to move it and how to treat it appropriately.”
“The Soldiers are welcoming our support and our help, and that is refreshing from a QASAS standpoint — to see that and to see their appreciation. It makes our job a lot easier and a lot more rewarding,” said Leykamm.
Additionally, several more QASAS personnel are deployed to Germany supporting ammunition operations at the Ammunition Center Europe, or ACE, in Miesau as well as operations in Ansbach and Wiesbaden. Aaron Thornton, who also has 17 years as a QASAS, is one of them.
Thornton is a supervisor at ACE. Home-stationed at Tooele Army Depot, Utah, he arrived to Germany about a month ago. He manages a team at Miesau where all ammunition and explosives that transit to and from the center are thoroughly inspected, including missiles.
“Primarily we conduct in-transit damage inspections on incoming ammunition,” Thornton said. “We have ammunition arriving at Miesau all the time — by train and by truck. We are inspecting for any damage caused during transit, for example packaging damage, moisture or mold.”
Thornton said he has Soldiers working with his team at the ACE from the 8th Ordnance Company who are deployed to Europe from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. According to Thornton, deploying overseas has provided these Soldiers with additional opportunities.
“These Soldiers have done an outstanding job supporting us and learning from us,” said Thornton. “They are very eager to learn because they don’t usually see what we see every day – inspecting 155 mm ammunition, for example. They don’t get that level of experience back at their home duty stations.”
“I really like what I do, but being here it’s even better because I’m working with Soldiers, and I love working with Soldiers,” added Mitch Doss who is a retired senior noncommissioned officer and Army instructor. “These Soldiers from the 8th Ordnance are very inquisitive and very responsible. They’re soaking up all this knowledge we’re providing them.”
Doss, who has been a QASAS for about two years, normally works at Crane Army Ammunition Activity located in Indiana. He said the QASAS team at the ACE is currently inspecting a large shipment of ammunition that arrived at Miesau a few days ago, and so far everything looks good.
“The depots in the United States where most of this ammunition is coming from did an excellent job blocking and bracing the containers. They seal them at the depots, and we unseal them here and open them up to inspect,” Doss said.
After Doss and the team at the ACE conduct their in-transit damage inspections, the ammunition is placed into bunkers for storage and issued from there.
“Any ammunition assistance the Soldiers need — we make sure they get it,” said Kyle Battles, a QASAS from McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, Oklahoma, who is currently deployed to Poland. “We make sure the ammunition is being shipped correctly and safely. We do site visits to make sure their security is set up properly, and we conduct a broad spectrum of ammunition inspections.”
“And the units we’ve worked with have greatly appreciated our support,” said Battles.
“Our job supporting the warfighters and the Soldiers is one of the most critical jobs in the Army,” Merten said. “When they’re out there on the battlefield, they can go for hours without water and days without food and mail or other classes of supplies, but without Class 5 — without having good, serviceable, reliable ammunition — they will not be able to survive on the battlefield long at all.”