10th Mountain Division rail operations
A Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, ground guides an armored Humvee across the last set of spanners to the loading dock Thursday. The train was the first of three to move 784 pieces of equipment between Fort Polk, La., and Fort Drum.

FORT POLK, LA. -- The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), began rail operations Thursday to recover vehicles shipped from Fort Polk, La. The operation, which continued over the Easter holiday weekend, was part of a nationwide transportation chain.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rick Legg, unit movement officer for 2nd BCT, said it was necessary for Soldiers to work on the holiday to download vehicles.

"It's a priority," Legg said. "The first two trains have to be downloaded pretty quick. They have to get the rail cars to the Port of Charleston for a larger OCONUS (outside the continental United States) operation down there."

The first of three trains, which carried 266 pieces of equipment, was expected to be downloaded in about four hours, according to the officer in charge of the operation, Capt. William King of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment.

King said the plan for the operation has three parts: the contractors who break the chains; Soldiers in his detail, who do all the ground guiding of vehicles off the train; and the drivers and truck commanders from the units who move the vehicles to the various motor pools.

Peter Bailey, one of the contractors "breaking chains," a term used to mean disconnecting the chains that secure the vehicles to the train, said he worked for Taylor's Transfer and was contracted by CSX Corp. to place the spanners as well. Spanners are portable steel bridges used to connect each flat car allowing the cargo to drive from one to another.

King said that getting the drivers and truck commanders back from the motor pools would definitely be what limits the operation.

However, "our goal, every time, is to do this safely," King said.

Bill Bellis, 2nd BCT safety officer, was present during the entire operation.

"We keep the flow of vehicles coming off the train and ensure it's done safely," he said, referring to himself and civilian employees from the Directorate of Logistics Transportation Division on their function during the operation. He later gave his own helmet and reflective belt to the 2nd BCT historian, allowing him to move closer to the train and document the event.

"It's important that we recover our vehicles quickly and safely," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Munger, a platoon sergeant from B Troop, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment. "That's why I'm out here; to keep things moving but keep it safe as well. They said the trains have to get to Charlestown for another pick-up. I get that. We'll make it, but safety (comes) first."

Trains two and three would carry 263 and 255 pieces of equipment, respectively, according to Legg. A piece of equipment for this operation was defined as a vehicle or trailer.

In total, 784 pieces of equipment were downloaded over three days.

Page last updated Thu April 12th, 2012 at 09:05