PORT OF VARNA, Bulgaria -- Rail and port workers at the Port of Varna, Bulgaria recently demonstrated the ability to allow freedom of movement between NATO countries during a port operation April 30 -- May 1, 2016.
During the operation, the workers changed the trucks of railcars carrying equipment scheduled to be used by Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division during Exercise Noble Partner May 11-26 at Vaziani, Georgia. The railcar truck is a structure underneath a train to which axles and wheels are attached through bearings.
The adjustment by rail workers allowed the smooth transition of equipment from NATO countries using European-spec rails to those designed during the Soviet-era.
"This process is impressive logistically because it demonstrates our ability to conduct freedom of movement by changing the railcars from European specs to Soviet," said Maj. David Forsyth, U.S. Army Europe's lead logistics planner. "You can make the changes here in Bulgaria, where you have a safe environment to do so. Then load the equipment onto the ferry, which has Soviet-era rail tracks, and off later in Georgia."
The process of changing the railcar trucks required the workers to use large lifts to raise railcars carrying M1A2 Main Battle Tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Humvees. Forsyth said that the process would be much more complicated if not for the changing of railcar trucks in Bulgaria.
"If this didn't happen here, the equipment would have to be unloaded in Georgia, only to be loaded again to rail cars with Soviet-spec railcar trucks," he said.
The transition of equipment allowed Alpha Company, 1st Bn., 64th Armor Regt., 1st ABCT, 3rd Inf., Div. the ability to quickly transfer its equipment from training exercises in Bulgaria to Georgia. Alpha Company leadership said the hard work by Port of Varna workers allowed a quick training turnaround for its Soldiers.
"We just took part in Exercise Strike Back with the Bulgarian Army at Novo Selo training area and now we quickly transition so that we can meet our partners at Vaziani Training Area," said Cpt. Samuel Herbert, the Alpha Co. commander."
Aside from a quick turnaround, Herbert also said that there's also some significance with the types of equipment his unit shipped to Georgia.
"This will be the first time that M1A2 Main Battle Tanks are transported into the country of Georgia," Herbert said. "This is significant for the Georgians because we can now work alongside the Georgian T-72 Main Battle Tank."
Forsyth and Herbert each said that port operation was successful. Herbert said that the successful port operation will allow his Soldiers to hit the ground running in Georgia.
"As with every operation there were small hiccups, but we've been thankful to get a lot of help from the Bulgarians and contracted personnel who are helping us achieve our objectives," said Herbert.