FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The putrid smell of exhaust and gasoline cut through the subfreezing temperature, Tuesday, as Staff Sgt. Juan Rivera motioned the M1 Abrams forward onto the rail car.

The tracked vehicle inched along, making minor corrections as it moved toward the Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

After signaling the tank to stop, Rivera moved along the bed of the rail car, preparing for the next vehicle.

"It's going great so far," said Master Sgt. Amin Henriquez, noncommissioned officer in charge for rail movement, 2nd BCT. "The main thing is safety -- making sure everyone understands what they're supposed to be doing. We want to make sure we're doing everything the right way."

Henriquez said close to 400 Soldiers helped direct more than 120 tracked vehicles -- including M1 Abrams, M2 Bradleys, Howitzers and M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift and Evacuation System vehicles -- onto rail cars to be transported to PiƱon Canyon Maneuver Site for Warhorse Charge, a three-week training exercise involving the entire brigade.

Maj. Ryan Levesque, office in charge for the rail movement, said moving the track vehicles via rail was more cost-effective than making the 150-mile drive and it provided a training opportunity for Soldiers to learn what it takes to move so much equipment.

"Most Soldiers have either not done it or haven't done it for a long time," he said. "It's a perishable skill."

Levesque said this was "the first time in a long time" that he's seen a brigade take this many vehicles on an exercise.

In operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, tracked vehicles weren't relied upon as heavily, he said. Instead, Soldiers relied on armored Humvees.

With the emphasis on decisive action training, Soldiers are now working with the "heavy" vehicles, starting with coordinating transportation to training sites.

"It's not a difficult task if the units coordinate with us," said Dennis Merritt, transportation lead with the Installation Transportation Office, Directorate of Logistics.

Merritt, who has worked for the transportation office for 10 years, said contractors typically help transport units, but 2nd BCT officials opted to take on the operation.

Still, nine DOL employees supported Soldiers, helping to properly tie down vehicles and guide them onto cars.

"We're on a time crunch," Merritt said, adding that the first train had to be at PCMS by Thursday. "But so far, there haven't been any problems.

"Load this morning to pull tonight. That's the plan."

Page last updated Fri February 22nd, 2013 at 10:56