News: Ammo dogs to the rescue!
Story by Sgt. Edwin Rodriguez
FORT EUSTIS, Va. - The grass is a little slick, there is moisture in the air and the sky is poised to drop some rain on a group of soldiers and civilians. Not to worry, even though it is a little on the wet side, it is not stopping this group from test firing some rarely seen yet very important army watercraft equipment.
The ammunition was a .45 caliber modified pistol round that was made in 1967. The round had to be tested with a Bridger Line Throwing Appliance before the possibility of being fielded to vessels around the army. The round is used to propel a metal rod from the appliance which is used by army watercraft in case of emergency and for safer port operations. For example, if a Logistics Support Vessel can’t get close enough to a pier to toss docking lines to because of rough waves, the throwing appliance fitted with a cord attached to a rod can be shot from the device to a crew waiting on the port, said Sgt. Bryan Rose, 97th Transportation Company, 10th transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment brigade. After the rod is shot, the line can be secured and the boat is safely guided to port.
However on this day, we see something even more rare than a line throwing pistol. Before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were large numbers of ammunition specialists running ammunition supply points, in garrison and overseas in combat. Now, a group of soldiers in charge of the Fort Eustis ASP are the only active duty unit actively managing this specialty.
Twelve soldiers from the ammunition management section assigned to the 7th Sus. Bde., have been running the ASP since July 2012 and will be there until this summer when they will be relieved by civilian contractors. The result came from a crucial decision that was made last summer: Close the ASP or find somebody to keep it open as soon as possible.
“U.S. Army Support Activity came to us because we were the last hope of keeping the ammunition supply point open. They said they could either shut it down, which would impact every army unit in the tidewater region or we could use our ammunition specialist to keep it open and maintain it until contractors can take over. It would be about a year until someone could come and take over” said Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Swartout, ammunition technician assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 7th Sus. Bde.
These ammunition techs and specialists took the challenge to keep the ASP open giving soldiers continuity knowing that there will be no major changes when it comes to acquiring ammo for training. The group knew that they could not halt their duties of supporting the brigade, but they were up to the challenge to take on new duties. They were being asked by the Department of the Army to assist, and they answered the call proudly.
“We are one of the only active duty units that is managing an ASP. We serve 30 units in the area to include Reserve officers’ Training Corps programs, Reserve units, and outside units like the Newport News Police Department and the Criminal Investigation Departments. It is a great opportunity for us,” said Swartout. “If we didn’t take over, the ASP and ammunition program would be shut down”
In July, ASP operations will be taken over by civilian contractors. All of the 30 units who take advantage of the Fort Eustis ASP will not miss a beat in their training schedule thanks to the 7th Sustainment Brigade ‘Ammo Dogs.’
“We are the only unit in the army doing this. It is good for ammo specialists to do their job while in garrison. They are bettering themselves, their unit and the army,” said Swartout. “They are getting great experience here while supporting the brigade and the tidewater region.”
The first days’ test fire on one of Fort Eustis’ ranges was a success according to Swartout. He will be supervising two days of testing hoping to give the army watercraft specialists the opportunity to use their throwing appliance more often.
“We have 40 rounds to shoot. Once this test is completed it will open up the capability for army watercraft throughout the region. The ammunition for the Bridger Line Throwing Appliance is doing very well. If the engineers here see what I see then the operation will able to move on to the next phase,” said Swartout.
The army ammunition specialists have seen a lot of changes through the years; however, they have proved that when there is a need, the ammo dogs can and will prevail.