CRANE, Ind. - One of the biggest challenges facing a Reservist is getting away from the Reserve Center in order to get the training needed to ensure they are ready to perform on Active Duty. For members of various Reserve Navy Cargo Handlers Battalions, the opportunity to do just that came through with the help of some Army and Navy civilians in Indiana.

Crane Army Ammunition Activity hosted 51 Reservists from CHB 7, 8, 10 and 14 Aug. 3-14 at its reserve compound, providing them with the opportunity to train and become certified on equipment and vehicles related to their trade.

The result provided the Reservists from Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, South Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia and California with a chance to gain explosive forklift certification, Rough Terrain Cargo Handling and Stacker certification, small arms familiarization, passenger bus driving training, tractor trailer driving training and shipping and receiving training. Reservists who received their explosive forklift certification in the first week were able to contribute directly to Crane Army's Depot Operations in the second week.

The training evolution came about when Lt. Cmdr. Jorge Nolasco, officer-in-charge of Charlie and Delta Companies of CHB 7, realized there was a golden opportunity for the members of his and other cargo handling battalions to hone their skills while giving back to the host installation.

"I came to work at Crane (as a Navy civilian) in September and took over a couple cargo handling companies out of Indianapolis in January. I had heard about a compound on base and I went driving around and found it. I then asked around for who ran the place, and... I met (Crane Army Reserve Liaison) Lance Daters who was taking over the compound," Nolasco explained. "We then did one drill weekend that worked out well. I noted several things here on base that I thought would be good for us. My initial goal was to get my folks out of the Navy Operations Support Center classrooms and into the field. As cargo handlers, we don't make money sitting in a classroom."

Daters stated that once he was contacted by Nolasco, he set to work with his Navy civilian counterparts at Crane to establish what training they could provide. Once the details of what training and work could be provided, a green light was given by Crane Army's leadership to provide the Reservists with this opportunity.

The chance to work in their field was not lost on the Sailors. Petty Officer 3rd Class Tim Tibbitts said, "This has been extremely valuable. I have been in the Reserves for five years this is the first time I have had a chance to do this sort of training and get these certifications."

Tibbitts, an Indianapolis native, said that those from the Indianapolis NOSC would have further opportunities to come down on drill weekends and keep their skills fresh by working for Crane. "It would be very nice to do, to come down here and help out the civilians and move stuff for them. With these certifications we will be able to come down here more often. This benefits them and us. It keeps our skills on top."

According to Lt. John Nevenhoven, OIC of Alpha and Bravo Companies of CHB 7 and the executive officer for the training evolution, there are more than 4,000 Sailors in cargo handling, making the competition to get into classes is tough. He said, "Trying to get into (the CHB school in) Williamsburg can be tough. You have to be quick when a class opens up and ready to go when that class is happening. So being able to set it up a month or two in advance and then come down here... is a great advantage for us."

Between the Army and the Navy facilities at Crane made available to the Reservists, many enjoyed the chance to do work that they normally would not be able to do. For Petty Officer 1st Class James Hawkins, from the Richmond NOSC, the chance to work on weapons like the M4 was just one of those experiences.

"Like I told the guys, there is never going to be a time when you are going to touch this many M4's, breaking them down, cleaning them and putting them back together. For the muscle memory alone, you are leaps and bounds ahead of guys out in the field," Hawkins said. "At the beginning we had to settle into a routine, but once the wheels were turning it was really good. Everyone has stayed busy and employed."

For some of the reservists, the opportunity to work with Sailors from other battalions, as well as the civilians at Crane, made the training particularly interesting. Petty Officer 3rd Class Tanya Smith, who is also assigned to the Indianapolis NOSC, said, "The civilians are very proactive when it comes to working with us. They know what they are doing and are hard workers. They appreciate our help as much as we appreciate theirs. Any chance you get to work with civilians and military together, you get good team work."

Nolasco echoed that sentiment of positive teamwork. "The very best thing was the relationship between the civilians and Reservists. Lance Daters and (Crane Navy training instructor) Andy Anderson were very supportive of my vision. They were critical to making the evolution work. What we need to tweak is how we can best fit into the training and operations for CAAA and NSA Crane. We absolutely want to get the training available here, but we don't want to be sponges. We want to help and support operations so that it's a win/win situation. We get training, and CAAA/Crane get operations support."

Daters also said that with the Navy Seabees attached to the unit, there is a possibility for the Reservists to support Crane through maintenance and repairs in the future. He said, "Future plans include working on roads and the cargo handlers working with Depot Operations to assist in moving and storing ammunition here on Crane. This endeavor has received attention from the unit's Regiment so I am hoping for a greater Navy Reserve presence for future training opportunities here at Crane."

CAAA was established in Oct. 1977 and is a tenant of the Navy Region Midwest, Naval Support Activity Crane. The Army activity maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles and related components.