Machine puts money back in Army's wallet

Brass granulator machine turns used ammunition cartridges into profit

Machine puts money back in Army's wallet

Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, the commanding general of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, examines brass granules that have been broken down by a brass granulator machine during a visit to the Ammunition Center Europe at the Miesau Army Depot Oct. 17. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Warren Wright)

By Staff Sgt. Warren Wright

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - Amid intense budgetary concerns and with units across the Army struggling to save money, one organization has found a way to bring money back into the Army by selling something most soldiers see as garbage after a day at the range.

The Ammunition Center Europe, a subordinate organization to the Theater Logistics Support Center - Europe, has recently acquired a brass granulator machine with the ability to break used and empty brass ammunition cartridges into tiny flakes, which can then be sold for a profit.

"We now have the ability to granulate the brass here and then we can sell it to local contractors," said Juan C. Gomez, chief of ACE's material management division and a native of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. "Sixty percent of the proceeds that we make out of the sale will go to the Army and 40 percent of the proceeds we can request for improvement of our facilities and installations."

Current estimates show that the machine has the ability to shred enough brass to earn between $370,000 and $400,000 each quarter for the foreseeable future.

"It's important because what we're doing is saving the government money by granulating our own brass," said Darren Williams, a munitions handler with ACE and a native of Greenville, S.C. "It's more like a recycling program within the organization."

Prior to receiving the granulator machine, ACE stored used brass at the Miesau Army Depot. During that 10-year period, the organization has accumulated more than 1,800 short tons of spent brass, ranging from .50 caliber rounds all the way down to 5.56 mm rounds.

Back then, "the normal process was to collect the brass and turn it into the Defense Logistics Agency; however, we were encountering too many problems," said Gomez. "When we turned the items into the DLA, they would screen it, and as soon as they found a live round they would return everything back to us."

The process of constantly shipping large quantities of brass back and forth between locations because of one or two live rounds in the bin became too tedious and expensive to maintain, so ACE decided to use some of the empty munitions bunkers at the depot to store the rounds.

"That was creating a big problem for us because we had to transport it over there, then we had to go back and transport it here, rescreen it and transport it back to them," said Gomez. "The machine was not available to us 10 years ago, and now that it is available, we can deal with our own brass."

Currently, the operation is in a pilot stage, testing the capabilities of the machine and making sure everything works correctly. The project is slated to become fully operational Oct 28.

"When we become fully operational we expect to be able to granulate up to 1,000 rounds per hour and we will be working on a daily basis," said Williams. "The process is going very well because during the pilot stage we have moved past a lot of barriers."

"It feels good to be out here doing this job," added Williams. "We're in the process of bringing money back into our organization and to our community - we're making money instead of spending money."