By Staff Sgt. Brent C. Powell, 300th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentJuly 13, 2012
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. (July 13, 2012) -- Working outside in temperatures hovering near 100 degrees is challenging, but more than 30 Army Reserve Soldiers are accepting that mission this week while handling tons of high-explosive ammunition during Operation Golden Cargo.
The Soldiers, who hail from various units, are currently assigned to the 828th Transportation Battalion from Livingston, Ala. They are spending the next several days operating forklifts, tightening cargo straps, driving armored trucks with flatbed trailers, and moving tons of ammunition as part of Task Force Hellcat during the annual exercise.
Each year the operation brings thousands of Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers from around the country together for two weeks of real-world, hands-on ammunition logistics training. The operation not only provides a unique training opportunity for the Soldiers, it also provides support to the Joint Munitions Command and the Department of Defense--the entities that are responsible for carrying out thousands of logistical ammunition movements throughout the year.
"Our mission here is to safely load 260 short tons (520,000 pounds) of 155mm ammunition daily during the course of the operation," said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph W. Schnering, an ammunition specialist and non-commissioned officer-in-charge of ammunition operations, 826th Ordnance Company, 828th TB. "Once the ammunition arrives at the site, we get it unloaded, processed and loaded on the trucks as quickly and safely as possible so it can be shipped out."
Ammunition is transferred from various storage sites on the depot to a central loading area. Once there, the Soldiers go to work unloading it from box trucks, labeling and stamping the pallets of ammunition, moving them to a staging area and finally loading them onto flatbed trailers and strapping them down.
Each day the team's goal is to load 13 flatbed tractor trailers that are driven nearly 500 miles north to Crane, Ind., where they are offloaded. The mission is an all-day labor-intensive job, and in the summer heat it isn't an easy task. "Our number one challenge out here is the heat," said Schnering. "Safety is always our number one priority, so we make sure everyone is drinking plenty of water and takes the necessary breaks, and we also have a team of medics here just in case something goes wrong."
Another challenge the team faces is that many of the Soldiers at the site are working together for the first time. "We have a mixture of Soldiers here from the 395th and 826th Ordnance Companies, as well as the 309th Trailer Transfer Point Detachment and a few medics from the 4224th U.S. Army Hospital," said Schnering. "We normally would not have the opportunity to work together like this, and so far everyone out here is hard working and motivated, and together we are accomplishing the mission without a problem."
One of the Soldiers helping to accomplish the unit's mission is Pfc. Corey M. Dawkins, an all-wheel vehicle mechanic from Freeport, Fla., assigned to the 309th Trailer Transfer Point Detachment. "Back home at our unit we mainly do truck driving and various classroom training," he said. "The training out here has been pretty good. It has given me the opportunity to do something different, and so far things are running smoothly and we are getting the job done quickly."
The team's hard work has not gone unnoticed. "The Soldiers that are out here running the equipment and getting this mission accomplished have really demonstrated great versatility," said Lt. Col. Charles K. Joines, commander, 828th TB. "From the Soldiers who are driving the forklifts to those processing and strapping the ammo down, the whole team has really pulled together, and is doing exceedingly well."
Despite the heat, explosive dangers and working together for the first time, the team has met their mission every day and has done it on time, Joines said.
"We are really lucky to have Soldiers from the different units on this mission," said Schnering. "Without the combination of our battalion here on the ground working with the ordnance companies, and the transportation detachment, as well as the team of civilians here to make this mission work, we could never have been successful."