CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF OPERATIONS --
(April 17, 2010) With squeeze of a trigger or pull of a string, Marines can easily launch a 5.56mm bullet or 155mm artillery round to distant, remote areas. As meticulous the effort is to guarantee a direct-hit on a target, the same exertion is placed on certain Marines guaranteeing the supply of the ammunition intended for those targets.
These Marines are the ammunition technicians, also known as “ammo techs,” who manage and provide the ammo Marines need for training ranges during the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s current seven month deployment.
One ammo tech Marine held the unordinary responsibility to secure and manage USS Ashland’s largest ammo transport thus far in their deployment.
Cpl. Will D. Hoover, ammunition technician with Headquarters platoon, Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th MEU, assisted in moving several loads of ammo from the lower decks of the ship to an ammunition holding area ashore. Hoover currently oversees more than half of the ammo previously stocked aboard USS Ashland at a military facility in Kuwait; where the ammo will remain in country until initial units from the 24th MEU arrive for upcoming training.
Moving the ammo was not a simple task. Hoover is one of two ammo techs assigned to USS Ashland to inventory and care for Marines’ ammo aboard the ship.
Hoover and his non-commissioned officer-in-charge coordinated with their Navy counterparts to move more than 100,000 pounds of ammunition from the bowels of USS Ashland.
USS Ashland houses a variety of ammunition and explosives and serves as an overflow warehouse for all the extra ammo the USS Nassau and USS Mesa Verde are unable to store, according to Staff Sgt. Jesus Veja-Montijo, staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge for the CLB-24 Marine detachment assigned to USS Ashland.
Inventory after inventory, every shell, round and accessory were recorded and stocked before being released from a Navy ammunition supply area.
The Marines withdrew an array of ammunition to include medium and heavy machine gun rounds, 155mm howitzer artillery rounds, Bangalore explosive charges, claymores, and Composition C4 plastic explosives.
“At all times we have to account for every round and then began moving our ammo load,” said Hoover, a Westminster, Md. native. “Each piece of ammo was organized by type and compatibility of its contents. For example, fuses for explosives cannot be in the same pallet as explosives because there is a chance they may set off in case of an accident.”
Safety remained paramount for the ammo techs as they supervised several Marines and Sailors carefully relocating pallets of ammunition from USS Ashland’s lower decks.
With Marine manual labor and Navy equipment, the Marines and Sailors worked hand-in-hand staging the ammo load before embarking it on Landing Craft, Air Cushioned ship-to-shore transport vessels, or LCACs.
“The Marines are very hands-on here with their own ammo,” said Ensign Kelly Larotonda, weapons officer assigned to USS Ashland, whom is responsible for all ammunition aboard the ship. “Having [the Marines] and their manpower here makes my job easier. Working together with the Marines made this load transfer extremely smooth.”
Hoover coordinated with LCAC personnel to arrange the layout for the load to ensure the off-load went without complication.
“I had plenty of help from the Navy and my Marines while I was on ship,” said Hoover. “Once the ammo sailed off this ship, I am now responsible for more 500,000 dollars worth of government equipment. Planning ahead was key to making the transportation process as painless as possible.”
As the boxes and pallets of ammo rested on the LCAC platforms, Hoover ensured that each container was properly fastened and protected to withstand the water ride to shore.
Once the LCACs arrived on shore, Hoover immediately directed heavy equipment operators from CLB-24 to begin removing every parcel of ammo.
“The work is tedious and time-consuming,” said Hoover. “It’s the same amount of work unloading the ammo as it was loading the ammo. Now that the ammo arrived on land, we have to move it quickly to place it all in a safe location.”
Hoover scrutinized every piece of ammo moving from one hand to the next with a keen eye.
“I have to make sure the every pallet of ammo is properly balanced on the forklifts, moved from the platform to [flatbed] trucks, fastened safely to the vehicles and unload it once again at its final destination,” added Hoover.
The ammunition will remain at an Army facility until the 24th MEU begins sending their assets to train here and withdraw what they need, said 1st Lt. Benjamin Gaines III, the assistant llogistics officer for Headquarters and Support Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.
Until then, Hoover remains responsible for the ammunition. A burden he gladly shares for a simple reason.
“Without any ammo, there isn’t any training,” said Hoover. “As Marines, we train how we fight, and we fight how we’re trained. So far, there isn’t a fight we haven’t prepared for to be in our favor.