A small crowd of Marines and family members gathered recently to recognize four of their own in a vital job that touches every Marine but gets scant attention.

The Marine Corps Association and Foundation guest speaker, Brig. Gen. Jason Q. Bohm, let the Marines of the ammunition technician community know how crucial they are.

The commanding general of Training Command at Headquarters Marine Corps rattled off all the work that ammo techs do in his remarks at the Woodbridge, Virginia, event.

"Our ammo techs need to know how to do it all," Bohm said. "You must become the experts in the procurement, the receipt, the storage, the issuing, the handling, the shipping and the salvage and renovation of ammunition," Bohm said.

As he spoke to the crowd of 155 people, a fraction of a small job field that contains less than 1,400 enlisted Marines, Bohm called their job the "essence" of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. Connecting that work to one of the Marines' core ethos of "Every Marine a Rifleman," he recited the Rifleman's Creed, learned in boot camp, and ended by repeating the phrase, "without my rifle, I am useless."

"Let's let that sink in for a moment ... ," he said. "Does anybody see what the missing ingredient is?"

"Ammo!" shouted a few.

"Because without the ammo, the rifleman and the rifle are useless," Bohm said.

But a voice from the crowd shouted out, "Fix bayonets," a reference to attaching bayonets to the ends of rifles for use as extended blades in close combat or when ammunition runs out.

"Fix bayonets," Bohm replied with a smirk. "That works too my friend but I'd rather have the ammo."

The awards are named in honor of Gunnery Sgt. Edwin W. Johnson, Jr., an ammo tech who died Sept. 8, 2009, in the Ganjgal Valley, Afghanistan, with two other Marines and a Navy corpsman while fighting off insurgents as Afghan allies retreated.

The awardees included:

  • Cpl. Nichole L. Fouse won the Ammunition Technician of the Year Award for assuming tasks above her grade by taking on storage chief responsibilities and creating a database that helped modernize the operations section at Las Pulgas Ammunition Supply Point.
  • Sgt. Robert R. Gladysz won the Ammunition Technician NCO of the Year Award for his single-handed support of 73 ranges and work during Operation Iron Fist, Steel Knight and Rimpac, serving as battalion ammo chief for 1st Reconnaissance Battalion.
  • Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez won the Ammunition Technician SNCO of the Year Award for his work as battalion ammo chief for Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Tank Battalion. In less than a year, Ramirez brought ammunition readiness from 78 percent to 100 percent while supporting operations Steel Knight, Rimpac Ssang Yong and Desert Scimitar.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kelly E. Dayton won the Ammunition Officer of the Year award for work performed as Munitions Officer-in-Charge for the Combined JointTask Force, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. She managed Central Command theatre ammunition requirements in support of 30 coalition countries, supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

The event was the third MC&F awards ceremony this year. On Sept. 28, the group has scheduled the annual Intelligence Awards ceremony in Arlington, Virginia.

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Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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