Large ammunition stocks are vital to sustaining
but they also create the potential for disastrous accidents.
Ammunition specialists in theater thus become enforcers of
safety as well as combat multipliers.
More powerful than a locomotive and faster than a speeding
bullet! No, it’s not Superman, it’s the Army’s
ammunition specialist, military occupational specialty (MOS)
89B, as he protects lives—not to mention valuable Army
materiel and property—by enforcing ammunition safety
in the Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND–B) area
of responsibility (AOR). As the mission in Iraq continues,
leaders and Soldiers have combined their efforts to identify
and develop plans to mitigate ammunition accidents. After
4 years of combat operations, ammunition continues to accumulate,
and ammunition safety has become an area of major importance.
Reducing Net Explosive Weights
In Iraq, ammunition managers have emphasized the reduction
of net explosive weights by getting rid of unserviceable ammunition
or dunnage that add to the potential for explosions. Leaders
have striven to maintain levels of ammunition based on operational
needs rather than basic load authorizations. Although troops
have made tremendous progress in reducing net explosive weights,
Soldiers understand that additional work is required.
Soldiers contribute greatly to the safe use of munitions
when they reduce the net explosive weight of the ammunition
stocks in ammunition transfer holding points (ATHPs). They
accomplish this reduction by identifying and retrograding
excess ammunition from ATHPs. During their deployment to Operation
Iraqi Freedom 06–08, ammunition specialists of the 15th
Sustainment Brigade spent countless hours accepting turn-ins,
taking inventories, reconfiguring loads, finalizing inspections,
and coordinating the shipment for over 8 million rounds of
ammunition to supply points. In reducing net explosive weights,
these 89B Soldiers returned many infrequently used, high-explosive
rounds that were no longer required for mission accomplishment.
of the explosive safety team from the Defense Ammunition
Center assist ammunition managers in Iraq.
Improving Ammunition Sites
Another initiative undertaken by 15th Sustainment Brigade ammunition specialists
was making site improvements to ATHPs. In the wake of an explosion, senior leaders
performed site visits to all munitions storage sites throughout the MND–B
AOR. A common point of emphasis during the visits was the need to emplace HESCO
(Hercules Engineering Solutions Consortium) barriers, which are constructed to
provide blast protection. These fence-and-barricade systems, wrapped with a
nonwoven polypropylene fabric, generally burn slowly if ignited. These barriers
(which extend at least 1 foot above the tops of storage containers) are positioned
around the perimeters and between the storage cells of all ammunition storage
Brigade ammunition specialists also focused on storage procedures. In addition
to ensuring that appropriate fire and chemical warnings were posted, the 89B
specialists made certain that all storage sites were free of flammable items,
such as solvents and petroleum products. The specialists then reevaluated the
inner and outer packaging of all ammunition,
discarded any unserviceable cases, and updated magazine data cards to maintain
accountability. After this process was completed, ammunition managers certified
that they had marked all packages with the proper national stock numbers, identification
codes, and lot numbers of the materiel they contained. In completing site improvements,
Army engineers extended boundaries and outer perimeter walls, which reinforced
the safety and protection of the storage areas.
Receiving Outside Assistance
The quality assurance specialist-ammunition surveillance (QASAS) is an Army
civilian who acts as a combat multiplier with relation to ammunition safety.
During the past year, a QASAS completed routine site assistance visits in the
MND–B area. In doing so, he worked side by side with the brigade’s
ammunition specialists, providing technical and policy advice on ammunition management.
He also verified the storage configurations and compatibilities of all shipping
containers. If ammunition malfunctions occurred during use or setup, the QASAS
provided feedback to the Joint Munitions Command for immediate dissemination
to major subordinate commands.
Also during assistance visits, the QASAS monitored cell explosive limits, ensuring
that units maintained the authorized net explosive weight of 8,800 pounds per
cell. Other areas of emphasis during visits included verifying the unit’s
on-hand balances of authorized basic loads and validating their requisitions
against the theater’s controlled supply rate. The QASAS ensured that site
managers were conducting risk assessments, that Soldiers had personal protective
equipment, and that an effective system for fire-fighting practices was in place.
The QASAS proved to be a reliable asset.
of the 63d Ordnance Platoon and A Company, 92d Engineer
Battalion, add HESCO barriers to the Liberty ammunition
holding site in Baghdad.
To wrap all initiatives together, and at the
request of theater leaders, the Army’s Defense Ammunition
Center at McAlester, Oklahoma, sent its explosive safety team
into the theater of operations. The team assisted ammunition
managers in calculating net explosive weights, reviewed public
traffic routes and distances to inhabited buildings, and provided
advice to MND–B leaders about which ammunition sites
should be awarded licenses or waivers for operations. As the
team progressed from site to site, the ammunition specialists
listened to and recorded recommendations provided by the
On-site assistance was incorporated into an ATHP expansion
plan that was under construction. The team also discussed
the proper standoff distances from storage containers to HESCO
barricade systems and the different mechanisms used to increase
security. One security method, the two-lock system, recommends
that the unit owning the ammunition individu-ally secure its
containers and then allow the site managers to apply a different
locking system. After 2 weeks of walkthroughs by the explosive
safety team, all units in the MND–B area had received
both standard and relative guidance needed to maintain or
achieve ammunition compliance.
As units continue to operate in the MND–B area, ammunition
safety remains a top priority, and the ammunition specialist
has the lead in this enormous task. The retrograde of excess
ammunition, the implementation of site improvements, the
incorporation of the QASAS into safety plans, and the use
of Department of the Army experts will all facilitate ammunition
safety in a combat environment.
Major Levorn S. Collins is the ammunition officer of the 15th Sustainment
Brigade. He is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic Course, Combined Logistics
Career Course, and Combined Arms and Services Staff School. He holds a B.S. degree
in mechanical engineering from Prairie View A&M University.