New Ordnance Crucible competition tests Soldier training

by Chris Hart
U.S. Army

FORT LEE, Va. -- Featuring three weeklong competitions with mentally and physically demanding fitness tests and field evaluations, the inaugural U.S. Army Ordnance Crucible challenge concluded Sept. 15. Organizers are heralding its success as a "hallmark demonstration of pride and professionalism within the Ordnance Corps and Army Sustainment communities."

The Crucible was designed to test teamwork and critical thinking skills among its Soldier competitors who had to provide technical solutions to complex problems. The Army Ordnance Corps sponsors see it as an opportunity to not only showcase the talents of its troops, but also as a tool for Army Divisions to validate capability, as competitors demonstrate their institutional and home station training skillsets in a real-world environment.

"This competition allows us to assess how we are doing in the institutional Army from training our professionals in the schoolhouse to units in the field continuing to build upon that knowledge in a decisive-action, competitive training environment," said Brig. Gen. David Wilson, the 40th Chief of Ordnance, who initiated the Crucible.

The competition started with Ammunition Transfer Holding Point personnel competing at Fort Pickett, Aug. 7-11. Installations represented included Fort Bragg, North Carolina; For Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Hood, Texas; and Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington. The 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, was the overall winner. Examples of tested ATHP events include land navigation, sling load operations and laying out a field ammunition transfer holding area in mobile combat situation.

"I love this competition," remarked Warrant Officer Marlon Lockhart from Carson's 4th Infantry Division after competing in an ATHP event. "It gives the 89 Bravos and Alphas (Ammunition Specialist military occupational specialties) a chance to come out and work together. We get to show what we know, and it places us against the best in our career field."

The Combat Repair Team portion of the Crucible, Aug. 21-25, was next at Pickett. Fifteen teams from across the Army came to test their metal during situations that ranged from defending the repair site of a broken down vehicle to planning and executing the recovery of a vehicle mired in thick, heavy mud.

Cpl. Joshua Smith, representing First Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, offered comment after taking part in an event. "There was definitely a high level of stress in trying to figure out the field problem," he said. "The demands of lifting and moving things, then having to run and do security was a lot tougher than I expected. It was definitely a good exercise. It's not something we get to do every day."

The team representing 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, ultimately earned the CRT competition's Team of the Year trophy.

For the third and final event, the Crucible moved north to Fort A.P. Hill. The Sept. 11-15 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team of the Year showdown drew six two-member teams from various installations across the Army. A rigorous lineup of challenges thoroughly tested their explosive ordnance and chemical response capabilities.

"EOD is more than blowing things up," said Wilson, alluding to other requirements like research and identification of ordnance, analyzing threats and response to chemical attacks. "(This competition) brings these professionals together to look at all 19 tasks and see how we are doing; see what we need to refine; sharpen our accuracies; and then take that back to the classroom and our operational units."

Overall, Wilson said he sees the Ordnance Crucible as a clear reflection of the Army's endeavor to forge a path to readiness as a total force and provide real-world training opportunities for Soldiers in the field. Obtaining this type of information, he said, is what "makes us better." In addition, he will use competition feedback to prepare upcoming training strategies for the Ordnance Corps.

"The U.S. Army Ordnance Crucible Team of the Year competitions were exactly the right events to reinvigorate our institutional and operational forces towards their Ordnance MOSs," said Maj. Nicholas Miller, the 59th Ordnance Brigade G-3 officer. "From the competitor's point of view, the opportunity to test their mettle against peers from across the Army on behalf of their division colors was a phenomenal thing to watch. Team after team pushed itself further than they thought they were capable of each day. We saw real pride on the faces of the competitors when they finished their respective crucible.

"From the Ordnance School perspective, we were able to gain a true assessment of Ordnance professionals across the board," he continued. "Our tasks and tests allowed us to evaluate the Operational Army's mastery of doctrinal tasks and evaluate (tactics, techniques and procedures) (TTPs) at the division and special operations level. We will use this feedback to assess how units are building upon the baseline of training (the Ordnance School) provides.

"We (will use it to) evaluate ourselves as well," he continued. "All told, I could not be more proud of the Crucible competition and the hard work the competitors and cadre put into each event. Every team and staff member poured themselves into this exercise and created a truly Army Strong training opportunity."

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