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Amid COVID-19; carefully moving ‘munitions’ at Tooele Army Depot

Posted at 7:58 PM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 11:02:55-04

TOOELE, Utah — The Tooele Army Depot holds a deeper meaning for various military branches than its frequent detonations felt by community members on a daily basis for months at a time.

The Depot is the sole munitions storage facility in Utah and one of a few in the Western states.

“Primarily here we’re about storing it and distributing it, getting it out around the globe to where it’s needed,” said TEAD Commander Steven Dowgielewicz. “Just to give an idea of how many storage locations are out there, they’re referred to as bunkers or igloos or earth-covered magazines, there is over 16-hundred on this site alone and another 200-plus on the south time so there’s a significant amount of munitions here but they’re stored in a very safe manner because of those bunkers.”

With COVID-19, a large amount of TEAD employees are working remotely, but the workload of storing, moving and out-loading munitions must go on.

“The DOD mission and their training slowed down a bit during COVID-19 and as COVID-19 continues but it can’t stop, it’s worldwide mission has to continue, and training has to continue,” said Dowgielewicz on Wednesday.

As a relatively new company within the 489th Brigade Support Battalion, the Utah National Guard’s 118th Transportation Company has been training at Tooele Army Depot since Monday.

“This is the first opportunity we had and I wanted to make it a real-world mission that had impact to both the soldiers, they could apply their skills so they could in turn talk to their friends, their family members and be proud of the work they do,” said 118th Commander Brian Sorensen. “Training our soldiers on technical portions of our main mission which is to transport cargo from point A to point B whether that’s supporting our local community, the State of Utah, as well as our federal mission.”

Safely continuing to train on a real, wartime-like mission is stressful during COVID-19. Working together in groups while handling precious, hazardous cargo can be daunting, but remains necessary to accomplish the mission.

“We have taken the most precaution that we can in order to provide safety for ourselves, our soldiers, our families back at home and the local contractors here working so that once we return back we’re not risking any concern for the new pandemic,” said Staff Sgt. Jeffery Clement, who is one of roughly 80 soldiers from the 118th working on the multi-week mission with TEAD.

Overall, the goal remains the same to continue training and be prepared at a moment’s notice for when the State of Utah needs the Utah National Guard to assist communities, or the federal government requests assistance for wartime readiness.

“We’ve had some responses in the past few years that now that we have our equipment we can enhance our response times and get supplies to the soldiers that are helping the community whether it’s a flood or a fire, things of that nature, we are the tier that brings the support to them to make sure they’re taken care of so they can support the community,” said Sorensen.

The Tooele Army Depot is a joint ammunition storage site responsible for shipping, receiving, storing, inspecting, demilitarization and maintaining training and war reserve conventional ammunition.