Do Army Infantry Officers See Combat – 1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Capt. Donald Frazier, field artillery officer, advanced course student with 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Mechanized), 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, receives a Closer look at the XM983 Excalibur… (Photo Credit: USA) VIEW ORIGINAL
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Mark Wallace, Raytheon’s Excalibur Value Stream Manager, talks to students attending the Field Artillery Office Advanced Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, about the accuracy of the Excalibur Extended Range Artillery Guided Missile between .. .(Photo credit: USA) SEE ORIGINAL
Do Army Infantry Officers See Combat
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chris Whorton, supervisor at the 155mm demilitarization facility at McAlester Ammunition Plant, Okla., talks to students at the Advanced Field Artillery Officer Course at Fort Sill, Okla., about how in which shells inside an artillery shell a… (Photo credit: USA) SEE ORIGINAL
Officer (armed Forces)
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – James Mason, Chief of Industrial Operations, Ammunition Operations Directorate at McAlester Ammunition Plant, Oklahoma, talks to students in the Advanced Field Artillery Officer Course at the 105mm Rebuild Facility about how. .. . (Photo credit: USA) SEE ORIGINAL
McALESTER, Okla. — It is not often that field artillery officers have the opportunity to see where the cartridges used by their units for training and combat are manufactured.
That changed for 60 students in the Army Artillery Advanced Course (FAOAC) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. as they headed across the country to the McAlester Ammunition Plant on November 4th.
“It is a unique opportunity. I didn’t even know this place existed,” said Capt. Donald Frazier, a student with the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Mechanized), 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, at the end of the tour.
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The visit began with a briefing by the MCAAP Command, which was conducted by Col. Joseph G. Dalessio, plant commander, who encouraged junior officers to ask questions during their visit.
The U.S. Field Artillery College approached MCAAP for a tour of its facilities last summer, and the first was held in September. This was the second class of FAOAC students to visit the plant.
“We wanted them to learn a little bit about the other side of what they don’t normally see — where the charge is produced,” Maj said. Derek Reeves, Program Manager/Senior Trainer for FAOAC.
The students were divided into three groups that rotated through the MCAAP facilities for two hours to restore the 105mm, 155mm demilitarization and Excalibur.
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“The tour was helpful in understanding where our ammunition comes from and how it is made,” Frazier said. “This information allows us and our soldiers to be more confident.”
The McAlester Munitions Plant is the Department of Defense’s premier bomb and warhead loading facility. It is one of 14 installations of the Joint Munitions Command and one of 23 organic industrial bases within the United States Materiel Command, which include arsenals, depots, and munitions factories. The MCAAP is essential for the management of ammunition stocks and delivery to the Joint Warfighter for training and combat operations. I left the Marines in May. I washed the dust of three continents off my armor and watched the memories fade into the sewers and earth as I tried to make sense of it all. I served as an infantry and intelligence officer in the Marines for over four years and never did a job I was trained to do. I have been deployed overseas twice and never set foot in a combat zone. I’ve never shot in anger, and I don’t know what it’s like to be shot, other than shooting holes at a shooting range.
In 2009, I enlisted as a naval officer because I wanted to go to war. At the time, the Marines were wandering around Afghanistan, flooding Helmand province in the south. I saw lieutenants leading their men through the wadis on TV and I wanted to be like them. I was 18 and I needed to prove something to myself and other people and the Corps seemed like the right way to do it. Combat service seemed an essential part of the deal, a way to “see the elephant” and learn about the world. As Nathaniel Fick wrote in his book One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer, “I wanted to go on a great adventure, prove myself… wear armor and kill dragons.” At the time, I didn’t understand the huge cost of such knowledge.
The battle stories of the global war on terror are already well known. More obscure are the non-war stories, the often harrowing experiences of those who recently served in what increasingly seems like an interwar period. I floated across the oceans on naval ships, observing the world from inside cabins and bars. On Okinawa, we cleared our weapons and looked north toward the Korean Peninsula, where another fire threatened to destroy us all. “It’s like training to play football for four years but never playing in a game,” they’d say. There was a real sense of emasculation about not going to war, especially for us young lieutenants. Our right-hand men, talented platoon sergeants who had raised war children with at least one combat tour in the Middle East, had the experience we were desperately seeking. Sometimes they held us when they wanted to prove something: “Sir, we didn’t do things like that in Afghanistan.”
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During initial officer training in basic school, the captains who taught us usually boasted shiny piles of ribbons won in several combat tournaments. These decorations served as a visual display of their competence and skill. I really wanted my own battle ribbon and campaign medals and maybe, though I didn’t want to admit it, a purple heart. (After a close friend was wounded in Afghanistan and told everything was going to be okay, my worry began to be replaced by an uncomfortable and confusing emotion: envy.) I longed for the rite of passage in the red temple of Mars, which seemed to always eludes me.
As I prepared to leave my job this spring, I struggled with a deep sense of inadequacy. I decided to join the Navy because I wanted to minimize my regrets. The poverty of the times makes us all beggars, and I didn’t want to wake up one day an old man and wish I had served. But I deployed twice without seeing the fight I was looking for. I wondered what would be enough. If I shot and killed a North Korean conscript from 200 meters away with my rifle, would that answer my questions? What if he called in an airstrike and turned the mud concoction from Sangin to dust? At infantry officer training, one of my favorite instructors, a stoic captain named Emmanuel, was telling us about an excerpt from Dakota Meyer’s memoir about hand-to-hand combat in Afghanistan. Meyer gets into a fight with a local wrestler and ends up hitting him over the head with a rock. If it were me, would you tick the box? Would he then feel like a full man, a self-actualized naval officer?
I finally realized that killing another human being would be as difficult as it would be far more traumatic to kill my friends and especially the young Marines entrusted to my care. I was forced to face this even before my last deployment to Japan. In September 2017, our battalion underwent a combat readiness assessment at Camp Pendleton in Southern California to confirm our deployment readiness. From the beginning, the exercise seemed cursed. An Abrams tanker overturned and several seven-ton trucks were damaged. During a night convoy, a fan in the engine of one of our armored humvees malfunctioned, sending carbon monoxide into the cabin, causing those inside to pass out from exposure. I got out of the vehicle and into the arms of my boss, who took me to our unit for treatment, which in typical Navy style consisted of sitting down and drinking water.
The next morning, my head still pounding from the engine failure, I set up a combat operations center high on the hill. He overlooked the beautiful expanse of arroyos and oaks and the United States Marine Corps School to the West, where new recruits learn how to become Marines. I appreciated the easier life of a staff officer after my first deployment as a firing squad commander, and I didn’t envy the Marines in my old unit, Charlie Company, who rode in amphibious assault vehicles below. I thought of the first platoon and the young men jumping into the troop quarters, hot and uncomfortable and bored.
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Suddenly, the idyllic California afternoon was interrupted by frantic radio chatter. “Break, break, this is not a cherry,” the transmissions began. “Getting lost in the real world. …” Initial reports indicated that the amphibious assault vehicle carrying 14 Marines and a sailor from Charlie
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