Never late: Fort Riley Transportation Office nets Army-level award
June 11, 2009
By Parker Rome
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Fort Riley's Installation Transportation Office has been mistake-free for the five years it's been operating.
Because of this track record, Fort Riley was named the first-place winner in the Army Installation category of the Army Deployment Excellence Award - an award normally earned by corps-level installations.
"We have never missed a port call," said Dick Wollenberg, the Directorate of Logistics' installation transportation officer. "We have never had a late plane - that's in five years. We've deployed over 200,000 Soldiers out of here and redeployed over 200,000 Soldiers. We've deployed in excess of 10,000 railcars worth of equipment. We've sent (Soldiers) to the (National Training Center). We've sent them to (the Joint Readiness Training Center). We've sent them to ports all over the United States. We've probably deployed in excess of 30,000 commercial trucks since the war began."
"Over five years, if you haven't made a mistake, that's a pretty significant accomplishment. That's really a reflection on the personnel that work here and the personnel that work in outside agencies that support us. That's really what we're being recognized for. It's the team effort that's been developed over the course of time that has allowed us to make these happen the way they're supposed to happen."
Wollenberg accepted the award June 2 at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Alexandria, Va., from Lt. Gen. Mitch Stevenson, deputy chief of staff of the Army for logistics, during the Combined Logistics Excellence Awards ceremony and banquet.
"This is a team effort. This is not just me," Wollenberg said. "I'm just there to receive this award. The award focuses on the personnel who do the jobs that make deployment happen for Soldiers. It focuses on established procedures, on how we do things. And finally, it really looks at what we've done to improve our infrastructure to handle deployments."
Fort Riley is different from other installations in that it has full time deployment specialists who are assigned to each unit. Everybody has a certain direction in mind, and there are certain steps they go through to get to where they need to be. The entire Installation Transportation Office staff is involved in deployment preparation. It's not just the people who load the trains and load the planes. Everybody is informed what's going on. There are no surprises along the way, Wollenberg said.
"It's not exclusive to Fort Riley," he said. "There are a lot of other people out there, like the Union Pacific railroad, to help us move our trains out of here. There are several bus companies that help us move our Soldiers out of here down the road to Forbes Field, which is 65 miles away. There are numerous commercial trucking companies that have helped us for the last five years. There are other outside agencies like the (U.S. Army Forces Command) headquarters themselves, the G-3, who have coordinated with us on a daily basis."
The job of the Installation Transportation Office isn't simple, Wollenberg said. They have two years worth of work already lined up on their desks. They know who's going to be going out and when it's going to happen.
The award process began when Fort Riley was entered in the contest based on its published guidelines and regulations. A three-day evaluation was then done by evaluators from the U.S. Army Transportation School.
Winning the award was a significant accomplishment for Fort Riley, Wollenberg said.
"General Stevenson recognized us in front of everyone and said, 'it's an unusual accomplishment for a place like Fort Riley to win this award,'" Wollenberg said. "Same thing with the commandant of the transportation school - he said, 'this is the first time in recent memory that an installation has actually won the award that is not a corps installation, like Fort Hood or Fort Lewis or Fort Bragg or someplace like that.' So it's a pretty significant accomplishment for Fort Riley to be recognized by both the G-4 of the Army and the commandant of the T-school and say, 'you know, your transportation is together down there.'"
Fort Riley hadn't been in contention for the installation award before this year, although Fort Riley units have won the award in different categories. The 266th Transportation Detachment won in the small unit category in 2004. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, won two years later in the large unit category. Wollenberg won in the civilian category in 2002.
"This operation down here is 24/7, 365 days a year," Wollenberg said. "There's never a time where we don't have some visibility or some association with Soldiers that are either going or coming. It's a big effort that's ongoing. Right now, we have about two years worth of work already laid out in front of us."
Facilities are a big part of the operation, Wollenberg said.
"Over the last three years, we've added the deployment support facility, the alert holding facility, the ramp at Manhattan and very shortly, I'm in the process of adding another 30,000 square feet of rail to facilitate the movement of equipment out of here for rapid deployment," he said.
"So by this time next year, we should have enough capacity here for upwards of 700 railcars, which exceeds all other FORSCOM installations by a long shot. Because of our rail load capacity, we can do a brigade in about two-and-a-half days where other installations like Fort Hood may take as much as two weeks to get a brigade out, because we have the facilities, and we've worked very diligently to improve those facilities."
The Installation Transportation Office makes sure everything they do is planned so Soldiers don't go through any more pain than they have to before they deploy.
"The whole idea is to try to minimize impact on Soldiers and to try to get their equipment on expeditiously and as painlessly as possible so that their little bit of time that they have available is spent training or spent with their family, whichever one has precedence at the particular time," Wollenberg said.