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Munitions Support in the Iraqi Theater

Soldiers had to polish their rusty ammunition-handling skills
when they were tasked with operating ammunition supply points in Iraq.

“Back to basics” could be used to describe the lessons that have been learned by the 1st Corps Support Command (COSCOM) (Airborne) Munitions Division (Airborne) since it deployed to Iraq to support the Multinational Corps-Iraq (MNC–I). Our Soldiers were tasked to manage four Army ammunition supply points (ASPs) dispersed across the Iraqi theater. For this role, they had to dust off their ammunition-handling and ASP-operating skills, deploy, and quickly transition from logisticians to warfighters.

Because contractors have operated Army ASPs for the past several years, Soldiers have not been adequately trained to do so—a fact that took a toll on those who had to assume the task. To ensure that Soldiers charged with managing and operating ASPs in the future are better equipped, leaders at all levels must ensure they are thoroughly trained and cross-trained in these basic skills—
• Forecasting.
• Expenditure reporting.
• Munitions reporting.
• Use of the Training Ammunition Management Information System-Redesign (TAMIS–R).

Forecasting

In normal garrison operations, unit ammunition managers are conditioned to open Department of the Army (DA) Pamphlet 350–38, Standards in Weapons Training Requirements Authorization (the “STRAC” [Standards in Training Commission] manual), complete a DA Form 581, Request for Ammunition Issue/Turn-In, and submit it. Presto! Forecasting is over and done in a few steps.

In a combat environment, however, things are a bit different. It is incumbent on the munitions staff to work closely with the G–3 staff to anticipate a unit’s operational needs and prevent possible overexpenditure of stocks when combat operations bump up the unit’s operating tempo. Units can forecast ammunition requirements accurately and justify increased orders by first performing a robust mission analysis that concentrates on weapons density and anticipated expenditures.

Historical expenditures can be used as a basis for forecasting future operational requirements. For example, a recent combat operation in Iraq against armed insurgents required nearly twice as many 5.56-millimeter, 7.62-millimeter, and 155-millimeter illumination rounds (used to spot infiltrating troops) as during routine operations. Based on this statistic, a proactive unit munitions manager would double the number of rounds he requests when combat operations are planned or expected in the future.

Expenditure Reporting

Reporting goes hand in hand with forecasting and must be done daily in combat operations. One issue that the 1st COSCOM Munitions Division has worked to resolve during this deployment stemmed from the fact that many units either were reporting their expenditures incorrectly or were not reporting them at all. Munitions staffs became frustrated when requisitions were not filled or were delayed because of incomplete and inaccurate expenditure reporting. In the future, expenditure reporting should be a primary element of deployment mission training.

Munitions Reporting

Like expenditure reports, timely munitions reports (MUREPs) are critical to mission success. Together, the two reports provide an accurate picture of a unit’s “munitions health.” The MUREP resides on the SIPRNET [Secret Internet Protocol Router Network] and is used to monitor critical munitions on hand. Since users must have established user names and passwords to access the system, a major hurdle that is often encountered in theater results from the lag between the time a deploying unit requests a password and the time it is received. Without a password, the unit has only the ammunition basic load that it drew before deploying, and it is unable to request more ammunition or submit a munitions report. During this time, upper echelons have no visibility of the unit’s reports and therefore cannot focus on issues typically identified in them. Units can prevent this from happening by requesting new user names and passwords before they leave their home stations. This will save leaders valuable time that they can devote to other planning details.

TAMIS–R

This automated system processes, stores, and retrieves data on requirements for, and use of, training ammunition. Most, if not all, units were already using TAMIS–R to request their training ammunition. As we moved forward, MNC–I directed the use of TAMIS–R to request operational loads as well. This requirement was a challenge for units that had little or no experience with the system. To remedy this situation, we deployed several training teams to the forward operating bases to train units to use the system properly.

MNC–I, and the Army itself, are moving to an automated, paperless system for requesting munitions. The speed of battle and constantly changing scenarios have dictated that logisticians move quickly to streamline the supply chain so that it will operate more efficiently. Learning to use TAMIS–R properly is an integral step in accomplishing this. Therefore, units must integrate a training program to better prepare themselves for the daily use of the system in a fluid environment.

Training

How should we train? Trainers should develop scenarios based on actual events encountered over the scope of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom deployments. These scenarios should incorporate as much cross-training as possible. For example, Soldiers should be required to work as division ammunition officers. In this capacity, they would be required to coordinate with other staff elements and, based on named warning orders, operation orders, and fragmentary orders, prepare logistics status reports, MUREPs, weapons density reports, and expenditure reports that reflect the increased requirements of an upcoming operation. By broadening the experiences of all of its Soldiers, the unit’s capabilities will be maximized.

The combat logisticians of the 1st COSCOM Munitions Division served with tremendous distinction during their deployment to Iraq from November 2004 to November 2005. Ammunition, as vital to Soldiers as MREs (meals, ready to eat) or fuel, flowed throughout the theater with minimal disruption. In fact, as a result of the forward thinking and astute planning involved in preparing for the Iraqi elections in January 2005, ASPs across the theater were stocked well above standard stockage objectives, which ensured that ammunition would not be an issue for anticipated follow-on operations.

The overarching lesson learned by the 1st COSCOM Munitions Division during its deployment is that ammunition handlers and ammunition officers should be placed back into home-station ASPs. Our Soldiers are being denied valuable and necessary training because the functions of their specialties are being outsourced to contractors.

It is true that we will turn over the theater to various contracting agencies to continue the sustainment as we draw down forces and redeploy. However, if we expect our Soldiers to perform at their maximum capabilities during future combat and contingency operations, we must provide them the best possible training. The best possible training for ammunition handlers and ammunition officers is daily exposure to an ASP environment and hands-on training. By paying attention to the details and gaining proficiency in these areas, we as sustainers will be able to move ammunition around the battlefield with greater efficiency, which will ensure timely and accurate munitions support of our warfighters. Placing Soldiers back into the daily operation of ASPs will give them an opportunity to practice and hone the basic skills they need to fight and win today’s wars. ALOG


Major Jay C. Land is the Deputy Support Operations Officer and Munitions Division Chief for the 1st Corps Support Command (Airborne) at Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Southern Mississippi and is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Course.