ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois -- (July 10, 2018) About 200 vehicles from the Illinois Army National Guard will load onto rail cars at Rock Island Arsenal this week as part of a deployment to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

The effort is part of a training and loading exercise using assets from the National Guard, Rock Island Arsenal and the Illinois State Police, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Little, the deputy logistics officer for the ILARNG. He said units deploying from RIA are the 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment, elements from the 135th Chemical Co., and Company D, 1st Battalion 178th Infantry Regiment.

He said the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team is loading equipment for this deployment at RIA and Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and then will establish a rail head in Wilmington, Illinois, when it returns from its JRTC rotation.

"This is to test how well we move and how well we build up combat power," said Chief Warrant Officer Jeremy Doggett, the civil operations officer-in-charge of the ILARNG's Logistics Directorate. "We have about 180 pieces of rolling stock here we have to load, and another approximately 700 pieces at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. The whole exercise includes this unit and 24 enablers from around the United States." He called the effort a complex move with "2,400 moving parts."

The deployment effort at Rock Island lasts from July 10 through July 12, according to Little, but efforts began when 33rd IBCT vehicles began arriving at RIA in June.

Doggett said the aid provided by the Illinois State Police is critical.

"For each vehicle loaded onto the rail car, you need to know its exact weight. That allows you to calculate the weight and balance for the rail car load," Doggett said. "We know the weight of a vehicle, but not necessarily its weight with its contents. They've provided a mobile scale operation that lets us determine the exact loaded weight of each vehicle, and it issues a paper ticket so that the loading officers can make the calculations as the vehicles are loaded."

The units are loaded onto rail cars in eight-car sections. Metal spanners bridge the gap between the eight rail cars, allowing the vehicles to drive up a ramp, and drive the length of the flat cars to a tie-down crew to be prepared for movement.

The loading proceeds at a rapid pace. A vehicle drives up the ramp and its ticket is checked. Thumbs up down the line means it can continue at slow pace to the end of the prepared rail cars. If a problem arises, for example the trailer brakes lock on a HUMMV, the unit gets out tools, clears the issue, and loading continues.

Maj. Adam Malaty-uhr, executive officer of the 2-106th Cavalry, is in overall charge of the loading operation at Rock Island Arsenal. "This is perfect for us. We have a staging area, adjacent to a fuel site, which is next to the rail head," Malaty-urh said. He said the facilities have allowed the units to keep pace with the larger effort at Camp Atterbury. "They're bigger, but this is perfect for the number of vehicles we have here."

Col. Stephen Marr, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Rock Island Arsenal, said the facilities are part of the Arsenal's overall mission. "We're here to support the total Army, through provisions of facilities and the ability to maintain those facilities. This is an example of our ability to do that."