PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. –- Members of the Program Executive Office for Ammunition welcomed a new non-commissioned officer to their team on May 4.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Waco Ashlock has joined the Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems as a Senior Artillery Systems Specialist. PM-TAS is responsible for managing the Army and Marine Corps towed howitzers, their digitization, and their gun-laying and surveying equipment.

“My priority duty is to be the M777 liaison between PM-TAS and the Marine Corps,” Ashlock explained. “My secondary duty is to teach the Marines how to utilize a new piece of equipment that they receive from PM-TAS and to assist with any testing before being fielded to the fleet units.” 

Ashlock works with the lightweight, digitized M777A2 howitzer. The digitized howitzer contains onboard electronics, giving it self-locating, self-laying and digital communications similar to a GPS, which allows Soldiers and Marines to aim and fire the cannons quicker.

“PM-TAS’s main customer is the Marine or Soldier who operates or maintains the howitzer,” explained Keith Gooding, the Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems. “It’s our job to support them and their artillery mission.”

“Waco provides a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective from an operational point of view that most civilian managers and engineers have never experienced,” Gooding continued. “His insight and knowledge is critical to help guide the collective artillery community in solving critical field issues.”  

Ashlock’s military occupation as a 0811 Field Artillery Cannoneer had given him previous experience with the M777 howitzers.  

“I was one of the original New Equipment Training Team members for putting the M777 into service from December 2004 until March 2006. Being on the NETT introduced me to the acquisition process,” he said. 

In the Marines, the Master Gunnery Sergeant is the expert in his military occupational specialty. 

“I believe the major benefit of having a Master Gunnery Sergeant in this billet is that he can provide feedback, from experience, to both PM-TAS and the fleet units. A Master Gunnery Sergeant isn't looking to get promoted, he's just looking to make sure everyone is doing what is supposed to be done,” Ashlock said. 

The experience and knowledge he is gaining at the PEO also benefit him as a Marine, Ashlock said, allowing him the chance to see how weapons are integrated into the military--from the drawing board, to the production line, to fielding the equipment to service members.

“I also have the opportunity to work with some great people that help keep our armed forces moving forward,” he said. “This assignment also provides me a chance to work with the entire Marine artillery community to coordinate fielding and training events for new equipment coming to the fleet.”

Ashlock has been in the military since 1992.