By Summer BarkleySeptember 19, 2011
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2011--Teams of experts from Joint Munitions Command elements across the United States and personnel already in-theater began Operation Ammunition Clean Sweep in early August to inspect explosives safety and ammunition ranging from bullets to bombs.
The operation is a collaboration among many elements including U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan, Army Materiel Command's Joint Munitions Command, Defense Ammunition Center's U.S. Army Technical Center for Explosives Safety, Army Sustainment Command, Combined Joint Task Force 1, 401st Army Field Support Brigade and 101st Sustainment Brigade with the goal of assessing needs and providing the technical expertise and manpower to ensure safe and serviceable munitions are in the hands of Soldiers and that the munitions are stored as safely as possible until needed by the maneuver units.
"Our goal was to help them [the units] assess what is needed to improve and give them the physical assistance they need," said Capt. Marjorie J. Samples, 101st SBDE munitions management officer-in-charge. "Our way to accomplish that was to synchronize all efforts from every organization and put together the teams that would go out there and provide the physical labor, the technical expertise and the assistance each site needs."
"Operation Ammo Clean Sweep is a CJOA-A [combined joint operations area -- Afghanistan] enabler that not only facilitates the warfighters' freedom to act, but enhances their force protection as well," said Col. Michel M. Russell, 401st AFSB commander.
Operation Ammunition Clean Sweep pulled together experts in explosives safety and Quality Assurance Specialists (Ammunition Surveillance) personnel and 15 Soldiers from the 1138th Transportation Company, Missouri National Guard, 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and put them into seven-person Combat Theater Ammunition Assistance teams to fan out to sites across Regional Command East and Regional Command South sites Samples said. She added that the 142nd Soldiers were not ammunition soldiers but received 30 days of training from the 592nd Ordnance Company, Montana Army Reserve.
"The 15 Soldiers were incredibly motivated and learned as much as they could," Samples said. "They worked closely with the QASAS and the 592nd Ordnance Soldiers to learn what their responsibilities as ammo handlers would be during the mission."
Voelcker said the QASAS are looking at ammunition to inventory it by NSN and lot number, inspect it to determine serviceability, determine what ammunition is excess to the theater and what is restricted from use. He said the goal is to have only serviceable and suitable ammunition left.
"A percentage of the ammunition inspected has been found to be unserviceable," he said. "I see that as a good thing. We can find bad ammunition and cull it out for disposal or retrograde."
The ammunition inspection portion of Operation Ammo Clean Sweep is producing a secondary benefit according to Kyle Voelcker, Joint Munitions Command Senior Command Representative. A centralized data base that will help to rapidly identify ammunition by location and facilitate isolating ammunition that has been recalled or restricted is also being developed as a result of the teams' work.
Explosives safety is the second component of Operation Ammunition Clean Sweep Voelcker said and noted that it is farther along than the ammunition inspection component.
"They are looking outward to determine blast arcs, develop courses of action and issue Certificates of Risk Assessment to commanders," Voelcker added.
The explosive safety teams relay their findings to United States Forces Afghanistan engineers for consideration in laying out forward operating bases and combat outposts said Ronald W. Thornhill, explosives safety specialist, USFOR-A Safety Office.
"We are looking to minimize building critical assets within blast arcs," he added. "Bottom line -- we want leadership to know the risks before expending funds for construction."
Samples said the value of the CTTA teams is that "they are helping [the maneuver units] sort through their unserviceable ammunition, palletizing unserviceable munitions and preparing them for retrograde; assessing how they can improve their storage space and submitting the engineer work requests necessary to have the brigade or division fix the storage sites.
"This effort has highlighted unserviceable ammunition that was stored for use and also found and corrected improper storage of ammunition and explosives," said Thomas A. Enricco, QASAS, USFOR-A, J-4 Munitions. "All these are examples of unnecessary risk to our Servicemen. The team continues to make positive impacts on this inherently dangerous requirement."
"They're getting great things done in the battle spaces," Voelcker said. "We're proud of what they're doing."
Operation Ammunition Clean Sweep has the attention of many people in theater and beyond with results being forwarded to multiple chains of command.
"Maj. Gen. Timothy P. McHale, USFOR-A Deputy Commanding General-Support, and I have been closely monitoring the progress and positive impact this operation is having throughout the CJOA-A," said Marine Col. Walter T. Anderson, USFOR-A J-4. "The importance of this operation has senior leadership support both here and in the USA."