POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii --
A Marine takes a knee and reloads magazines during a firefight. Smooth is fast, and with minimal fumbling he jams his shiny 5.56 cartridges into a 30-round clip. Rounds are pinging around him, so he quickly jams his magazine in and puts devastating steel on target.
It’s unlikely the Marine had time to ponder the origin of the pointy projectiles he sent downrange. For most, the gunpowder-packed metal jacketed rounds just “appear” at armories and on supply trucks.
But the story of how they got there is as important as the fact that they are there in the first place, and that story belongs to Marine Corps ammunition technicians, better known as “ammo techs.”
It’s impossible to understate the importance of the Marines who inspect the ammo and honor last minute requests, to guarantee Marines training on the ranges and rounds in the magazines of Marines in battle.
During training here, ammo techs belong to Combat Service Support Group 3. The unit helps ensure 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment and attachments have the ammo they need to train for war.
“Usually, everything will run smooth between the companies and ammo supply,” said Staff Sgt. Jerry Robertson, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the ammo supply point here. “As long as they know how much they’re using before the training, we bring that much and issue it along the training cycle. But nothing ever runs like it should, and we’ll get crazy requests at last minute situations and try to get it done as long as the paperwork is in place. Those times mean the ammo tech will pay for it and work as long as necessary.”
Being an ammo tech requires a great amount of technical proficiency and requires discipline and commitment. During their work at the ammunition supply point here, they are the first line of defense when it comes to safety. Policy prohibits the techs from having cell-phones on their person during work (usually all day) because the signal could set off a missile. And definitely: no smoking.
“Well, organization is very important when dealing with ammunition,” said Pfc. James Laflin, ammo tech, CSSG-3. “We keep them separated by hazard classes, which determines how many vehicles need to transport the requested ammo,” he said calmly, casually spitting into the endless rocks and sand here. “Some classes are compatible, given the traits, and can be accompanied by other classes. For example, Sierra classes, which are standard ammo like 5.56 or 7.62, are compatible with all. While Bravo classes, like grenade fuses or blasting caps are not compatible with anything.”
The ammo techs here persevere through hailing winds and total seclusion here because they know the importance of the training and the overall significance of mission success while deployed.
“I’m pretty much the ambassador of ammunition affairs for 2/3,” said Cpl. Justin Trejo, an ammo tech with 2/3. “I make sure the Marines are getting the necessary ammo to train and usually deliver it to the range. A common workday is usually getting requests together or delivering the ammo to ranges, leaving little downtime throughout the day. I know I'm doing an important job because I think of the success in Iraq’s pursuit of a self-governing government, the Marines, the civilians back home and most importantly my wife Joanna.”
It may be tedious, it may be long, it’s probably underappreciated, but these dedicated Marines work without question or occasional thanks as they work to support the heart of the Marine Corps, the rifleman.