Within the Joint Munitions Command (JMC), the Defense Ammunition Center (DAC) serves as the ammunition knowledge center that field personnel use as a reach-back facility for ammunition logistics and explosives safety information.
“As a member of the United States defense community, DAC’s goal is to promote and assure safe and efficient operations involving ammunition and explosives from the time it enters the stockpile inventory from manufacture through use in training, wartime, or demilitarization,” explained Gary Carney, DAC director.
Headquartered at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, McAlester, Okla., DAC has six major missions in pursuit of this goal: training, explosives safety, developing new technologies for demilitarization, logistics engineering, Ammunition Career Management programs, and technical assistance.
DAC trains approximately 50,000 military, Department of Defense (DoD) civilians, and contractors in the areas of ammunition, logistics, explosives safety and hazardous materials (HAZMAT) certification. The Training Directorate offers a variety of training avenues; i.e., resident courses at DAC, on-site mobile training, accredited off-campus instruction facilities, and web-based distance learning programs.
“As part of DAC, the Training Directorate is well equipped to develop and provide all aspects of munitions- related training for DoD personnel and agencies,” explained Dr. Upton Shimp, Associate Director for Operations & Training. “Our distance learning training on the Army Learning Management System provides the opportunity for personnel to receive training conveniently and in a self-paced environment.”
Recently, the Training Directorate became the single source for military packaging and preservation training within DoD. DAC received this new mission in October 2009, when the School of Military Packaging Technology was closed due to BRAC action. This training program provides DoD packaging professionals with a wide array of function specific training and developmental opportunities. Course offerings range from basic preservation and packaging principles to advanced packaging design and testing techniques.
Another important mission within the Training Directorate focuses on the sharing of knowledge. DAC has worked jointly with other DoD organizations to create and maintain communities of practice (CoPs) that are relevant to the ammunition enterprise.
Current CoPs support ammunition, HAZMAT transportation and explosives safety. The CoPs are available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week and provide members current, relevant information as well as the means of collaborating with each other. The 2009 Department of the Army award winning Ammo CoP is available at https://acc.dau.mil/ammo. The HAZMAT transportation and explosives safety CoPs are available on the Battle Command Knowledge System (BCKS) at https://forums.bcks.army.mil.
In FY01, DAC recognized a need for a place where the ammunition community could ask technical related questions and expect answers in an expeditious manner. The Operations Directorate established AmmoHelp as the tool to centralize ammunition related questions from the field. Since 2001, DAC has responded to more than 5,900 questions. Questions come from troops preparing for deployment as well as from those already in theatre and cover explosives safety, ammunition supply and transportation issues. In FY09 the AmmoHelp Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page was created and experienced more than 35,000 inquiries during the year. AmmoHelp can be accessed at DAC.AmmoHelp@us.army.mil.
“AmmoHelp continues to be a proactive tool that supports Army transformation by providing customer service through timely, accurate, and consistent responses,” said Shimp.
In direct support to Soldiers and civilians in the field, the DAC Operations Directorate publishes “The Yellow Book,” formally known as the Hazard Classification of United States Military Explosives and Munitions. It serves as a consolidated reference to assist Soldiers in the field with basic data on ammunition and explosive (A&E) criteria.
Within the Explosives Safety Directorate the United States Army Technical Center for Explosives Safety (USATCES), serves as the center of explosives and chemical agent safety expertise. USATCES assigns hazard classification of ammunition and explosives for the Army and maintains the Joint Hazard Classification System and the Explosives Safety Mishap Analysis Module.
USATCES also provides expertise in the design and development of site plans pertaining to both explosives and chemical operations. They may also be called upon to provide accident investigation support and explosives safety risk assessments for the DoD community. In direct support to theater, USATCES deploys explosives safety experts to increase the overall explosive safety posture.
“Those forces that went into Afghanistan and Iraq early on had very little explosives safety training. They still don’t receive much formalized training, but they are more aware of how to get help after arriving in theater,” explained Joe Cambron, Acting Chief of the Ammunition & Explosives Safety Training Division. “The real lesson learned is the lack of awareness. As an example, Soldiers not knowing they should not take their anti-tank weapons into their tents or keep their hand grenades with them all the time. They do not always realize what could happen to the rest of their squad if a grenade were to detonate. Even in a war zone safety issues need to remain at the forefront.
“We use DoD standards of keeping quantities of explosives to a minimum to prevent large catastrophic accidents,” Cambron continued. “For example, in Afghanistan, you want to keep your amount of explosives to a minimum because of the threat of indirect fire. And that is our major threat – a mortar or rocket fired into a forward operating base (FOB) and hitting their ammo storage. Any kind of explosive accident on that scale is catastrophic – they could lose the FOB and Soldiers’ lives. So we teach Soldiers how to minimize the amount of explosives stored in any one location.
“We have determined we need to do a better job of communicating explosive safety awareness to the leadership, from the general staff down to the Soldier level,” he said. “We have developed a tactical explosives safety course that is presented to units prior to deploying to make them aware of the hazards they face and what they can do to protect themselves.”
In efforts to continually recognize and research environmentally acceptable technologies for strategic, tactical and conventional ammunition demilitarization, the Demil Technology Directorate is the integrator to help enable technologies for ammunition demilitarization and disposal processes. The directorate collaborates with the Department of Energy, national laboratories, academia, commercial developers, and program offices throughout the Department of Defense, resulting in new or improved installation execution abilities. The Demil Technology Directorate serves as the technical lead in munitions characterization via the Munitions Items Disposition Action System (MIDAS). The MIDAS program provides muntions characterization, disassembly, and disposition support for demilitarization operation. The MIDAS team leverages their ammunition expertise and knowledge of demilitarization processes, capabilities and emerging demilitarization technologies to develop Demil Process Maps (DPMs). The DPMs provide the demil community with a powerful tool to assess present demilitarization capabilities as well as any new technologies under development.
The Directorate for Engineering, within DAC, provides engineering expertise to DoD for ammunition wholesale and retail operations. The directorate provides engineering support in the areas of receipt, storage, issue, transportability, maintenance, surveillance, demilitarization, and modernization of ammunition.
In efforts to ensure ammunition is provided to the end-user in a safe and useable condition the Engineering Directorate offers various services in the areas of design and development of standardized unit, pallet and storage procedures for the Department of Army (DA), and procedures for outloading, blocking and bracing of ammunition for rail, road and ship transportation. The directorate also provides transportability and pallet testing, container certification, instrumentation support, and Ammunition Peculiar Equipment (APE) testing. Transportability tests conducted by the Engineering Directorate involve rail impact tests, road tests, and tilt tests.
In direct support to the warfighter and civilians in the field, the DAC Engineering Directorate designs, prototypes, facilitates, verifies safety approval, fields and sustains Ammunition Pecuilar Equipment (APE). The APE program provides equipment to Soldiers, and DoD civilians, with the intent to help make their jobs easier and more efficient. The APE equipment supports operations in areas of surveillance, maintenance, and demilitarization of ammunition. APE equipment could be as simple as vises to hold projectiles during light maintenance or as sophisticated as the high speed Army Tactical Ammunition Classification System (ATACS) which uses lasers, cameras, and algorithms to inspect and classify small arms ammunition. APE designed through DAC helps reduce man-hours, increases safety and allows for personnel to focus on other mission critical duties.
The Defense Ammunition Center centrally manages two DA civilian ammunition career programs. The Quality Assurance Specialist (Ammunition Surveillance) (QASAS) Career Program (CP 20) and the Ammunition Management Career Program (CP 33).
The QASAS career program has more than 500 Army career civilians – all directed placement, mandatory mobility employees assigned wherever the Army has an ammunition mission around the world. There are additionally as many as 120 interns moving through a two-year training program at any given time. The interns spend their first year at McAlester completing training presented by the Training Directorate and the second year in on-the-job-training at a JMC installation. Once qualified as QASAS, they spend the rest of their careers rotating about every three to five years among ammunition sites around the globe.
“QASAS are trained to work with all the Army’s small arms and conventional ammunition, including missiles and toxic chemicals which are being phased out,” Neil Wachutka, chief of DAC’s Ammunition Civilian Career Management Office and CP20 program manager for DA, explained. “Basically, we do ammunition surveillance, explosive safety and ammo logistics across the board for the Army. Right now, QASAS are filling positions in CONUS, at JMC, AMC, USAREUR [U.S. Army-Europe], Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Hawaii, Alaska, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan – basically all over the world. Currently the majority of the ammunition LARs [Logistics Assistance Representatives] are filled by QASAS. The vast majority of our careerists work at JMC depots and ammunition plants, but we also have people at the National Guard Bureau and with the Department of the Army Inspector General (DAIG). More than 50 QASAS are deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.”
The CP 33, Ammunition Managers Career Program, was established in 1983 to provide a worldwide pool of trained ammunition managers to support the Army’s ammunition logistics mission with expertise and training in conventional, chemical and missiles. Currently, there are more than 600 ammunition managers worldwide.
“We can take people who don’t have any knowledge of or experience with ammunition, which is the case with a lot of our interns. By the time we are finished, they are able to pretty much operate independently in the field,” said Cambron. “The job basically covers everything in the DoD inventory, not just Army but also Navy and Air Force, going from the 5.56 mm rifle bullet up to 2,000-pound bombs. We train on how to store, inventory, inspect and assess serviceability, shipping operations and demil, then provide explosive safety assistance to everybody who handles, stores and manages ammunition. The interns who come through this school will move on and through their careers will work very closely with the military – often with a military person as their supervisor – or they may work as a direct advisor to a military leader,” Cambron said. These relationships further help the QASAS deal with helping all ranks in the field better understand and employ explosives safety. “The personnel we have in theater go out to the FOBs and make an assessment, then provide feedback to the leadership, so the leadership is aware of issues they need to work on while they are fighting the war.”
The Defense Ammunition Center provides ammunition training, support and technical assistance across the full spectrum of ammunition logistics in support of all our warfighters, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and our allies, because “DAC Knows Ammo.”
This article was first published in U.S. Army Materiel Command: 2010-2011 Edition.