ANNISTON, Ala. –
When the Army ended its search for a new standard-issue pistol by choosing a variant of the Sig Sauer P320, the service relied on Defense Logistics Agency Distribution to safely transport the weapon to Army units.
The 9mm sidearm, whose military version is the M17 or M18, replaces the M9 Beretta, the Army’s pistol for more than 30 years. The contract for the new handgun was awarded early last year.
But before soldiers can use the pistol, it has to be transported. And as with any weapon, each shipment must be counted, verified and tracked carefully through every step of its journey. This falls to DLA Distribution Anniston, Alabama.
First the manufacturer ships the weapons from its New Hampshire factory to DDAA, said DDAA’s commander, Army Lt. Col. Michael Lindley.
“Shipments are sent via commercial carriers cleared by the U.S. Transportation Command to transport sensitive items,” Lindley said. “Freight carriers are required to have dual drivers and constant monitoring of their location.”
In addition, shipping personnel apply a seal to the cargo door before the load departs and record this on the shipping documentation, he explained.
At the same time, the DDAA team accounts for the weapons in the Logistic Support Activity’s Unique Item Tracking before shipping the pistol in accordance with the directions provided by the Army's item manager.
DDAA personnel process shipments of pistols through a five-step system:
When a truck arrives, the team verifies the seals are intact and clears the shipment for processing. Then the weapons team unloads the weapons into the receiving area and places them in backlog (based on number of pistols in the queue) or at a receiving line of five employees who verify the kind (brand, model, caliber and other specifications), condition and count of the weapons.
The receiving line next removes the outer packaging and places the weapons on a tray that moves along a conveyor belt. They tag each weapon with a serial-number barcode and register it with DLA’s Small Arms Serialization Program and the Distribution Standard System. DSS then sends the information to the Army’s Unique Item Tracking database. Then the team packs the weapons based on size. All packed material is dual verified.
Personnel move the weapons for temporary storage. Then the weapons are segregated based on type, condition code and owner.
Once the item manager for the weapon has transmitted a material release order, other DDAA personnel move the weapons to the shipping floor to be repacked, based on the quantity on the MRO.
The packer verifies the weapons picked match the MRO for kind, condition and count and then packs the weapons based on mode of shipment.
Items packed are verified by the shipping supervisor prior to release to a commercial carrier for shipment to the requestor.
“The shipping team determines the mode of shipment according to the Defense Transportation Regulation 4500, ensuring that all security requirements are met in the movement of the material,” said Susan Beavers, chief of Warehousing and Transportation Operations at DDAA.
As the materiel leaves DDAA, the Transportation Team reports the pending delivery to the customer. For further security, each shipment is tracked either through the delivery truck’s internal tracking function or through the Defense Transportation Tracking System, Beavers added.
According to Lindley, the 101st Airborne Division is the first unit to receive the new pistol, and the 1st Brigade Combat Team was the first unit to field the M17 last fall. In November, the 101st received more than 2,000 M17 and M18 handguns. Personnel from each component of the 101st unpacked, inventoried, inspected and annotated receipt of the weapons through the small arms register. The 101st began fielding the new pistol Nov. 28.
The Sig Sauer is “easier to fire and simpler to operate" than its predecessor, said Sgt. Matthew J. Marsh, a 1st BCT soldier. "The pistol felt very natural in my hand. I’m excited to take my experience back to my unit and share it with my soldiers."
The unit was “proud to be the first unit to be fielded this new handgun," said Col. Derek K. Thomson, 1st BCT commander, who observed the fielding. "Our soldiers have always been at the cutting edge of battle, so it's fitting they’re the first to fire alongside these leaders today."
Marsh echoed Thomson's sentiment: "I never thought I would be one of the first ones to field a new piece of [Army] equipment," Marsh said. "It’s a tremendous honor for my battalion and brigade, this division and me."
The M18 is a compact version of the M17 and according to Lindley, is fully modular. It can be modified to be one of three sizes, and the caliber can be changed to suit different conditions and assignments.
“The internal fire control assembly remains the same and can be combined with a different grip frame, barrel and slide. Other features include: consistent trigger pull sensation from first to last shot, polymer frame (less weight), and an ambidextrous slide release lever,” Lindley said.
DDAA also provides distribution services for the other military services, including combat weapons systems missile systems and small arms. It maintains materiel to support weapons and combat systems, including radioactive, hazardous, consumables, major end items and secondary repair parts.
According to Beavers, her team’s main focus at DDAA is and always will be Warfighter First.
“Our whole team strives to do whatever is necessary to support to women and men potentially putting themselves in harm’s way,” Beavers said. “It’s an honor to be able to stand side by side with these folks … No task is ever too small or too large for them,” she said.
NOTE: 101st Airborne excerpts and quotes were taken from the 101st Airborne Courtesy Story provided to DVIDS: