FORT CARSON, Colorado -- With the temperature dipping below freezing and snow starting to fall, a typical Colorado day in December didn't hamper Soldiers from 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, from wrapping up weeks' worth of work to load trains with equipment ultimately bound for Europe.
In fact, the rail-load operations here concluded nearly a week ahead of schedule in what is the first transportation step toward re-establishing a continuous presence of U.S. Army armored brigade combat teams in Europe. The Iron Brigade, as 3rd ABCT is known, is deploying 4,000 Soldiers and its full set of equipment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve on a nine-month rotation to bolster the collective defensive capability of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
On this particular Friday morning at the Fort Carson railhead, as gray clouds loomed low and the breaths of Soldiers exhaled like thought balloons overhead, one particular thought pervaded: load this last train.
"If anything this weather motivates our Soldiers to get the job done," said Capt. Kenneth Kloeppel, the rail operations officer in charge for 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment. "Everyone is really pulling together today so we can finish before the first snowflake hits. Being a Colorado unit, snow brings out the best in us -- the 'harder' times bring us closer together."
Just as with the first train they loaded back on Nov. 5, Soldiers secured a mix of tracked vehicles, fuelers, Humvees, engineer equipment and more to this last train without incident.
"Our Soldiers have been extremely dedicated, regardless of conditions like this today, to upload the more than 2,000 pieces of equipment we have onto rails. The result is we're wrapping things up about a week ahead of schedule," said Kloeppel.
"There's still a good bit of work to be done," he added, "but this phase of the operation has been very successful, and we're looking to carry that success onto the next stage."
That next stage will focus on loading Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Paladin self-propelled artillery and the rest of 3rd Brigade's equipment set onto sea vessels at Beaumont, Texas. Those ships are scheduled to arrive at the port of Bremerhaven, Germany, in early January.
From there the equipment will again be loaded onto trains or travel by convoys to sites in Poland where 3rd Brigade Soldiers will aggregate prior to further disbursing to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and southern Germany for partner training with NATO allies.
Supporting the movement is Fort Carson's 4th Sustainment Brigade and 597th Transportation Brigade out of Fort Eustis, Virginia. The 21st Theater Sustainment Command and its 16th Sustainment Brigade is spearheading the logistics of moving the 3rd Brigade across Europe.
"This is a monumental push, and it's a total team effort to move this much equipment to and across central and eastern Europe," Kloeppel said.