By Sgt. Christopher DennisJuly 26, 2016
Pfc. Bryce Thomas day started at 4 a.m. to get his M1A2 Abrams main battle tank ready to be loaded onto the Korean railcar by 6 a.m. Some 15 hours later, he and his tank had arrived at their destination.
While slowly maneuvering the 70-ton tank from the flatbed railcar, Thomas kept a sharp ear out for the creaking and groaning sounds coming from underneath. The Abrams had six inches of track hanging over either side of the railcar; one wrong move and the weight of the tank could flip the railcar.
Thomas relied on the Soldier in front of his tank ground-guiding him to unload his tank, the first tank unloaded at Camp Humphreys.
Thomas and his fellow Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment "Stallions," 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were the first US forces from the region along the Demilitarized Zone to relocate south of Seoul as part of a 2004 agreement between the U.S. and South Korea.
"Being the first tank driver here feels surreal, we are making our mark in history that our brothers and sisters in future brigades get to follow, and that's amazing," said Thomas, a native of West Palm Beach, Florida.
The Stallions moved from Camp Stanley and Camp Hovey to US Army Garrison Humphreys, near Pyeongtaek, South Korea, in accordance with the agreement to move all U.S. forces to garrisons south of the Han River.
"This is an exciting and historic event, one that many thought would never come to pass, but folks, I'm here to tell you, the 2nd Infantry Division is on the move," said Maj. Gen. Theodore "Ted" Martin, commander of 2nd Infantry Division.
Moving more than 100 vehicles at night in convoys to avoid ensnarling traffic, and line-hauling about the same number tracked vehicles on railcars, the 750 Stallion Soldiers moved to brand-new facilities at Camp Humphreys, from July 12-15, holding their first official formation at the new location July 18.
"The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team has been tasked with line haul, tactical road marches, and railhead operations simultaneously over a four-day period to relocate a combined arms battalion from Camp Stanley to US Army Garrison Humphreys while maintaining a 'Fight Tonight' readiness," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Carlton Huguley, chief mobility officer, 1st ABCT.
Moved by the Korean railroad system was the Stallions' M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, M88 Armored Recovery Vehicles and other light tracked vehicles along with their respective crews.
Escorted by officers from the Korean National Police, the remaining Soldiers from the battalion conducted a series of tactical road marches through Seoul, in the middle of the night, with more than 40 containers and 180 pieces of equipment.
This was not just 2nd Bn, 8th Cav. Reg. relocating, but a combined effort of at least four other Ironhorse battalions to help coordinate, guide, and assist the Stallions to get to their new home.
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, supported the rail operations for the move, and Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, manned traffic control points along the route. Logistics support was taken care of by the Soldiers of the 115th Brigade Support Battalion, said Huguley.
As Soldiers from Stallion battalion arrived to Humphreys, they were greeted to the sight of their recently built motor pools, barracks and facilities.
"I didn't want to go back to Stanley," said Pfc. Bretona Baldwin, a M1A2 Abrams tank system maintainer with Company D, 2nd Bn, 8th Cav, after she had done a reconnaissance of USAG Humphreys with her unit days prior to moving down here.
Soldiers appreciated the new barracks, a floor plan referred to as "1-plus-1," where two private rooms share a kitchen and bath.
"It's a major improvement," Spc. Joseph Rhodes an Infantryman with Company B, 2nd Bn, 8th Cav. Reg. "Going from sharing the bathroom with four people down to two - and then having my own room and I don't have to see my roommate everyday, that's going to be great."
The new dinning facility also won Soldiers over.
"It's the little things, just the cups at the dinning facility being glass and not plastic, and it being so clean, makes it seem better," said Spc. Ethan Tramel an Infantryman with Company B, 2nd Bn, 8th Cav Reg.
Tramel also appreciated the planning that went into the layout of the facilities for Soldiers.
"The fact that the gym is right here, the dinning facility is right here, and everything is centrally located, once everything is up and running, I think it will be a lot better," said Tramel.
During the battalion's first formation at Humphreys July 18, Martin thanked Stallion Soldiers for leading the way in the move.
"The unit you see arrayed before you, the 2nd Bn of the 8th US Cav. Reg," said Martin "Proud troopers from the world-famous U.S. 1st Cavalry Division, who are on rotation to Korea, serve as a vanguard for the force that will eventually arrive to call Camp Humphreys their home."