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Pressing Together: Reservists hone career skills at Crane Army during annual exercise

By Mary Camacho


CRANE, Ind. – Each year U.S. Army reservists and National Guard units from various geographic regions of the country come together at Crane Army Ammunition Activity to participate in Operation Patriot Press, an annual training exercise established by the Army Material Command to support the Department of Defense’s munitions readiness requirements. Among the units participating this summer include two that have traveled hundreds of miles from the plateaus and buttes of the northern plains and the sandy peninsulas of the Great Lakes to train on the network of roads and rails within the CAAA fence-line in southern Indiana: the Soldiers of the 452nd Ordnance Company (452nd OD) of South Dakota and 1463rd Transportation Company, Michigan National Guard.


According to the Joint Munitions Command, Operation Patriot Press provides an opportunity for U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard transportation and ordnance units to enhance their logistical readiness by working directly with active-duty counterparts and the Army’s civilian workforce at ammunition plants and depots across the country. At Crane, Soldiers from both units also collaborated with each other during their overlapping training periods.


“This is an opportunity for our Soldiers to get real-world training and be able to operate at the unit level,” said Cpt. Luke Rykse, the 1463rd’s company commander. “We have a total of 93 Soldiers and coming here allows us to exercise with all the Soldiers.”


The 1463rd Soldiers, most of whom are predominantly truck drivers, came to Crane to practice and hone their driving skills. The trucks they drive are M1088 military vehicles with 30-foot trailers, similar to civilian semi-trucks.


Every day the Soldiers of the 1463rd moved ammunition and dunnage between bunkers on Crane to recycling centers to support CAAA’s munition demilitarization mission.


“Our Soldiers take everything they learn at Crane back to the real world,” said Rykse. “In addition to our training, we’re doing work for Crane. We’re moving munitions and scrap to the recycling plant.”


“The best part about Operation Patriot Press is the training the Soldiers are able to do,” he added. “It’s real-life experience and some of our Soldiers transit to civilian truck driving.” He added that a bonus advantage is that military training provides transportation Soldiers with a skills equivalency waiver so that they’re only required to pass a knowledge test to receive a commercial truck driver’s license. “It’s definitely a leg up on the other [civilian] students,” said Rykse.


While the 1463rd’s mission is transportation, the 452nd Ordnance Company serves as an ammunition supply unit and used their time at Crane to support storage reform initiatives. Storage reform is an effort to more efficiently consolidate the large quantities of various munitions stored at CAAA into centralized warehouses.


“The training is important to everyone because of the Golden Rule of Ammunition: expose the minimum amount of personnel to the minimum amount of explosives for the minimum amount of time,” said Sgt. Clay Heidecker, the noncommissioned officer charged with the operation. “Storage reform ticks off all the boxes of the Golden Rule. Think of it as a consolidation or reorganization of the ammo here at Crane.”


During their training, the 452nd OD helped move metal pallets that house large munitions like 120 mm projectiles. “The pallets allow the projectiles to be moved and containerized easier,” said Heidecker. Moving the munitions to new facilities or the recycling plant requires detailed coordination, planning and documentation.


“Our Soldiers are learning to use critical thinking skills to deal with any problems that might arise in a logistic environment,” said Heidecker, emphasizing that a lack of communication is often a key issue to overcome during training. “Here our Soldiers get to train on how to read documents, move ammunition with material handling equipment and have Military Occupational Specialty-specific interactions while at CAAA,” referring to an MOS of 89B Ammunition Specialist. An 89B MOS designates Soldiers with the responsibility of managing ordnance from receiving to storing and issuing.


“Training at CAAA helps our Soldiers with their communication skills and simulates what an ammunition company does during actual deployments,” said Heidecker. He added that the skills the Soldiers learn from OPP can translate to jobs in the private sector, from ordnance research and development to bomb disposal or munitions manufacturing.


At the completion of Operation Patriot Press, the Soldiers of both the 452nd OD and 1463rd TC will have collectively travelled more than 2,000 miles through various terrains and road conditions back to their home states, ready to put valuable training at Crane to use as civilians.


Crane Army Ammunition Activity produces and provides conventional munitions in support of U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. It is part of the Joint Munitions Command and the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which include arsenals, depots, activities, and ammunition plants. Established Oct. 1977, it is located on Naval Support Activity Crane.

Operation  Patriot Press

Spc. Damien Elwen and Sgt. Evan Siler of the 1463rd Transportation Company, Michigan National Guard help secure straps to hold MK3-0 pallets for munitions transportation during Operation Patriot Press, an annual training exercise established by the Army Material Command to support the Department of Defense’s munitions readiness requirements. Crane Army Ammunition Activity produces and provides conventional munitions in support of U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. (U.S Army photo by Mary Camacho)


452nd Ordnance Company, U.S. Army Reserves

Sgt. Nathan Boes of the 452nd Ordnance Company, U.S. Army Reserves, directs Pfc. Sammuel Lommen conducting forklift training during Operation Patriot Press, an annual training exercise established by the Army Material Command to support the Department of Defense’s munitions readiness requirements. Crane Army Ammunition Activity produces and provides conventional munitions in support of U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. (U.S Army photo by Mary Camacho)

1463rd Transportation Company, Michigan  National Guard

Spc. Christopher Abbeg of the 1463rd Transportation Company, Michigan National Guard, prepares to work on the brakes of an M1088 truck during Operation Patriot Press, an annual training exercise established by the Army Material Command to support the Department of Defense’s munitions readiness requirements. Crane Army Ammunition Activity produces and provides conventional munitions in support of U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. (U.S Army photo by Mary Camacho)


1463rd Transportation Company, Michigan National Guard

Spc. Damien Elwen of 1463rd Transportation Company, Michigan National Guard, secures a strap that is holding MK3-0 pallets during Operation Patriot Press, an annual training exercise established by the Army Material Command to support the Department of Defense’s munitions readiness requirements. Crane Army Ammunition Activity produces and provides conventional munitions in support of U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. (U.S Army photo by Mary Camacho)


The 452nd Ordnance Company (OD), U.S. Army Reserve (South Dakota)

The 452nd Ordnance Company (OD), U.S. Army Reserve (South Dakota). (U.S. Army photo).


The 1463rd Transportation Company, Michigan National Guard

The 1463rd Transportation Company, Michigan National Guard. (U.S Army photo by Sfc. Dazarine Porsche)

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