A new form of mobile arms storage unit, which could make storage more efficient while speeding arms repair and reducing troop travel over unsafe roads, is being deployed in Afghanistan.
Across the theater, arms rooms intended for temporary use have become permanent fixtures over time, and are unsuited to the task, said Joe McHenry, supervisor in the container area of U.S. Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.
Previously, small arms have frequently been stored in open areas without security or climate control. The new units, built into 20-foot shipping containers, can be deployed by truck, ship, train or air. They come equipped with remote climate control to manage heating, cooling and humidity.
Eleven of the new $120,000 units, manufactured by Germany-based B & T Marketing GmbH, have been deployed, and more are on order, with an eye toward eventual deployment at all U.S. forward operating bases.
The improved arms rooms come with integrated security components, including sound and strobe alarms. They are equipped with motion sensor alarms and automated systems to dial military police and other forces in case of a security breach.
Most significant, managers say, is the enhanced capacity to do repairs on site.
Given the limited storage capacity and repair facilities of existing units, it has been difficult to conduct anything more than minor repairs at many bases. Soldiers have logged extensive travel time bringing small arms to locations where they could be serviced and repaired, McHenry said. In cases in which parts have not been available, troops have made multiple trips to get their arms repaired.
In some cases, soldiers who have become attached to their weapons have chosen to get by with less than optimal equipment, rather than work with temporary replacements while waiting for repairs to be carried out at other units.
In addition to addressing such concerns, the new mobile units bring a higher level of security and efficiency to the storage of arms, McHenry said.
“We’ve had situations where arms were stored in open containers, they were not cordoned off,” he said. “They were basically improvised cargo containers and they were not really safe. It was pretty sloppy.”
Rather than continue such haphazard management, the new self-contained units have been built out with specific storage spaces for various weapon parts. Separate spaces can accommodate spare barrels and sights, night-vision goggles, radios and other specific components.
With this improved level of organization, it should be possible to make better use of what stocks are on hand.
“The mobile arms units ensure a clean and organized area. It allows them to reuse stuff that otherwise might have just been sitting there and wasting away,” McHenry said.
“It also keeps the weapons under lock and key, in an orderly fashion. There are people who are regularly involved in storing ammunition and arms, and this gives them a safer environment to work in.”