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Operation Ammunition Clean Sweep 13 takes aim at retrograde in Afghanistan

March 12, 2013

By Summer Barkley, 401st AFSB Public Affairs

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Following classroom and hands-on training, five Operation Ammunition Clean Sweep 13 teams are ready to spread across the Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan searching for unserviceable or unsafe ammunition for demilitarization and serviceable ammunition to return to record for reissue or retrograde back to the United States.

The goal of OACS-13 is to advise and assist, inventory, retrograde and dispose of munitions in support of the Brigade Combat Teams and CJOA-A requirements. The end state of the operation is to improve unit readiness, increase visibility of munitions, reduce unserviceable and legacy munitions and determine the scope of the CJOA-A munitions retrograde requirements.

This is the third iteration of Operation Ammunition Clean Sweep in Operation Enduring Freedom.

"There are three primary differences between this OACS and the two prior," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Turner, Joint Munitions Branch chief, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan J4 (Logistics). "The addition of Soldiers to assist with retrograde as ammunition items are identified; the addition of contracted disposal personnel to mitigate retrograde requirements as items are identified; and a reporting structure that ties the CJOA-A munitions managers from 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and 1st Theater Sustainment Command (forward) together with Joint Munitions Command as well as the Corps and Regional Operational Commands."

Four of the teams consist of two Quality Assurance Specialists (Ammunition Surveillance) civilians, three Soldiers and two explosive ordnance disposal contractors; while one team will not have contractors.

Their job is to travel to forward operating bases to search through ammunition handling areas, MIL VANS (20-foot military owned shipping containers) and containers for munitions and explosives. They will empty the areas where the items are stored, separate by lots, inspect for safety and serviceability, segregate by condition code, and repack serviceable and safe munitions and explosives for use by the Warfighter or to be retrograded out of theater as directed by USFOR-A.

The contractors will demilitarize ammunition determined to be unsafe, unserviceable or not destined to be retrograded.

"The QASAS deployed from Defense Ammunition Center, Blue Grass Army Depot, Letterkenny Munitions Center, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and Tooele Army Depot," said Thomas Evans, Joint Munitions Command senior command representative to the 401st Army Field Support Brigade.

"They will determine unsafe, unserviceable and excess ammo that will be de-miled (demilitarized) in place. The teams will de-mil as far forward as possible to save costs, manpower and resources," Evans said.

The Soldiers are from the 60th Ordnance Company, 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 1st Sustainment Brigade and the 401st AFSB.

"I will be assisting commanders throughout CJOA-A with munitions management by travelling to each location and inventorying and inspecting all Class V," said Staff Sgt. Leon Dingbaum, 401st AFSB, who is currently under the tactical control of USFOR-A and 1st Theater Sustainment Command. "Our team will consist of military ammunition specialists, DA Civilian QASAS and our contracted EOD disposal teams."

Dingbaum, who's military occupation specialty is 89B3P (ammunition specialist in a 30 level position and parachutist qualified), said he is glad to have the opportunity to work in his military occupational specialty.

"We will inventory what each unit has on site and provide recommendations to higher as to what should happen to various munitions based on condition and lot number integrity," said Dingbaum. "USFOR-A and 1st TSC will provide us disposition instructions as to what items are to be retrograded, destroyed, or remain on hand as part of the unit's combat load. We will also assist the units with packing retrograde items as well as disposal of unserviceable items in
forward locations as much as possible."

Retrograde of non-mission essential equipment is one of the ongoing missions of the 401st AFSB and Operation Ammo Clean Sweep 13 is designed, in part, to assist the retrograde effort.

"This will absolutely help with the retrograde of equipment out of theater as we will have eyes on accountability of what ammunition is on hand at each site and what condition it is in," said Dingbaum. "The ability to de-mil/destroy munitions at forward locations will also take the burden off of larger bases to dispose of unserviceable ammunition and make it easier for them to pack/ship items that will be retrograded."

Turner echoed Dingbaum's observations and said he sees three primary benefits regarding retrograde.

"It will reduce intra-CJOA-A retrograde through forward disposal of unserviceable and items identified as "do not return" to CONUS; it will allow for the proper packaging and preparation of items that are required to be retrograded (for safe shipment); and it will provide a means of identifying the scope of the munitions to be retrograded from forward locations so that adequate planning for containerization, air movement and vessel requirements are clarified."

As the OACS 13 teams prepare to fan out across the CJOA-A, they will be moving ammunition containers weighing as much as 76 pounds, working in austere conditions, sometimes at a high altitude and frequently out in the elements during the heat and blowing dust of the Afghan summer.

Their reward, in addition to completing an important mission, will be to hear many "big voice" announcements saying "Attention on the FOB, attention on the FOB, there will be a controlled DET (detonation) in the next five minutes."

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