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MCALESTER, Okla. -- Michael E. Pankratz gave Spec. Ronnie H. Brown of the 478th Transportation Company the diagnosis: "One of her eyes got knocked out, she doesn't look good," he said of the vehicle's headlight.
Pankratz, an Oklahoma native, is a quality assurance supervisor at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, or MCAAP. Standing in the hot Oklahoma sun July 6, Pankratz and about two dozen members of the 478th meticulously inspected the enormous M1025 Palletized Load System vehicles they would be training on for the next two weeks.
The 478th deployed to Oklahoma as part of Joint Munitions Command's training operation known as Golden Cargo. The operation takes place across the western half the United States as service members from the U.S. Army Reserve, National Guard and Navy work alongside civilians in the handling and shipping of ammunition to strategic locations. Almost 300 Soldiers and Sailors from six different units converged on MCAAP to participate in the operation.
A unique feature of Golden Cargo is that it isn't simply training as reserve-component units perform an actual essential mission during the exercise. Members of the 478th say they enjoy the training for the hands-on experience.
"When you do Golden Cargo, you do your job, what you'll be doing in reality," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Washington, 478th truck master from San Diego.
The five-axle PLS trucks they are inspecting will be responsible for shipping tons of ordnance and ammo that will eventually go out to all branches of the military.
"We're really excited that we're actually dealing with something big," said Spc. Pollyanna F. Tanuvasa of Barstow, Calif., assistant motor operator in the 478th. "Usually we're just supporting one company. But here we're helping with ammo for all the services."
Brown, of Vicksburg, Miss., joked about sweating out a couple of pounds in the heat, but said the 100-degree weather was just another part of the training.
"The heat is good preparation for deployment. The only difference is we've got rocks instead of sand. This is good for people who haven't deployed yet," said Brown. "It'll give them a good chance to find out what it's like to work in these kinds of conditions."
Pankratz, a civilian MCAAP employee with a military background, looks forward to the annual operation and is impressed by the motivation of the troops.
"I like it. I enjoy working with the Soldiers. I look out here and say 'by golly, these guys want to work,'" said Pankratz. "If you have any wrench turners, I always say let's put them to work."
Spc. Yulgye M. Echavarria of San Diego Calif., a wheeled vehicle mechanic for the 478th wants all the experience he can get to keep his skills sharp for future deployments.
Reviewing an electrical diagram for the headlight he is about to replace he said, "If a headlight can go wrong here, it will definitely go wrong there," referring to deployments.
Pankratz gives his approval of the Soldiers, "When you let them work, they are good."