CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- At a Camp Leatherneck firing range, M-4 rifles and SAW machine guns break the still afternoon air with the staccato of gunfire. At Forward Operating and Patrol Bases across Helmand province, Marines load their weapons and go condition one prior to going on patrol missions.
Although ammo is a daily essential for many service members’ lives in Helmand province, few service members give a lot of thought as to how their ammunition gets to them. Like many behind-the-scenes functions of missions, no one really thinks about how it happens as long as it gets done.
At Camp Leatherneck and bases around the province, a coordinated supply system involving several commands keeps ammunition readily available for every Marine in country.
“We supply all [Regional Command] Southwest coalition units with ammunition,” said Master Sgt. Adam Newsum, the Field Ammunition Supply Point operations chief for 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), and a New York native. “We make sure the ammunition is properly stored, transported, handled and inventoried, and then we get it to the war fighters so they can conduct their missions.”
The RC(SW) staff, 2nd MLG (Fwd.), 2nd Marine Division (Fwd.) and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd.) all work together to coordinate the movement of a vast amount of ammunition that has to be delivered efficiently to Marines in order for them to maintain mission readiness. Ammunition supplies must be systematically requested, tallied, and transported with efficiency and accuracy. Every shipment must be accounted for down to the last round of ammo – quite a chore considering the numbers.
“We supply anywhere between $7 and $12 million dollars of ammunition a month to all the coalition forces within Helmand province,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Taylor, the RC(SW) logistics ammunition chief for II MEF C-4, and a Dayton, Ohio, native.
“Currently, there are about $250 million worth of ammo amongst RC Southwest units. We’ve moved almost $60 million worth of ammo over the past six months.”
The ammunition goes through a series of transports and inventories as it is delivered from the U.S. to coalition forces in Helmand province.
“We have to track all the ammunition as it’s airlifted from Kuwait to Camp Leatherneck,” said Taylor. “Then we look at who in our inventory list needs ammunition and decide what will be the most efficient way for it to get to their final locations.”
When ammunition arrives from Kuwait, it is processed in through the Field Ammunition Supply Point, right at the flight lines at Camp Bastion, adjacent to Camp Leatherneck. The ammo is offloaded and stacked according to what it is and where it’s going.
Ammunition deliveries to FOBs are done by supply convoys or by helicopter. Helo deliveries have to be managed with great attention to detail to enable its feasibility and the safety of the aircrew.
“We work with the pilots to make sure the cargo weight doesn’t put the aircraft in danger from enemy forces,” explained Newsum.
Once at its destination, ammo is accounted for again, and dispensed by an ordnance chief. When more ammo is needed, the process is commenced when the ammo chief for the FOBs submits an ammo request through the proper chain of command so the process can be repeated.
“Ammunition is something most Marines take for granted, without realizing how much effort goes into ensuring they always have a constant supply,” said Taylor.
“We have a unique opportunity to be where you influence operations with every challenge we face and resolve,” added Newsum. “We have daily requirements that constantly force us to be innovative in our mission.”
Of the 41 Marines that Newsum has in his command at the FASP, 22 are reservists and 19 are active duty. One of their common bonds is that they all volunteered to be here in Afghanistan.
“The Marines I have out here get all the credit for getting the job done,” said Newsum. “They’re motivated, disciplined and want to be here. For many, this is their second tour of duty out here or Iraq. We’re all glad to be helping our guys get the missions done.”
Coalition forces depend greatly on their supplies to give them an edge in theater. For their missions to function, supplies have to readily available, often with little prior notice and while overcoming unforeseen obstacles, and in Helmand province, ammunition is as vital as water and food for coalition forces.