By By Eric Cramer, Rock Island Arsenal Garrison Public AffairsJune 22, 2009
More than 200 people greeted the Transcontinental Convoy when it rolled through drizzling rain into Clinton, Iowa, on its re-creation of the 1919 convoy commanded by Lt. Col. Dwight Eisenhower.
The original convoy traveled to California, stopping at Rock Island Arsenal on its return trip.
Terry Shelswell, convoy director, said its reception has been remarkable everywhere the new convoy has stopped.
"It's been wonderful," Shelswell said. The response from the public has been inspirational."
Shelswell said traveling with a hundred or more vehicles, some of them more than 90 years old, is not without challenges.
""We have a few breakdowns, but we also have a lot of people with experience, and what breaks down, we fix, and if we can't fix it, we tow it," he said.
Clinton, a city of about 26,000 people on the banks of the Mississippi River in Eastern Iowa, corresponds to one of the original stops taken by the 1919 convoy.
"All of our stops are a near the original stops," Shelswell said. He said Clinton is slightly less than halfway through the planned coast-to-coast route.
"We've covered just over a thousand miles so far," he said.
The original convoy was designed to test the feasibility of moving troops and materiel, and to showcase the Army's use of then-cutting-edge technology. Today's convoy has different goals, according to Shelswell.
"We have two missions - the first is to say thanks to our veterans, active duty military members and their families," he said. "The second is to pay honor to the first group that did this in 1919, when it was very important."
Shelswell said a third key for the convoy is education. "We want to educate the public, and present these vehicles to the public so that they can learn more about them."
Lined up for the free lunch provided by a Clinton-area troop from the Boy Scouts of America, the convoy members were already planning to head out for their next stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"We're in first gear at 14:00," was a message passed up and down the line. At 14:00, the big engines wound up and the convoy left Clinton.