FORT HOOD, Texas – The 407th Army Field Support Brigade integrates and synchronizes Army enterprise support to the Army’s active duty, National Guard, and Reserve units within its area of operations, and Army Field Support Battalion-Hood is one of the units under the brigade facilitating Installation logistical support to local units and Soldiers.
In the Army, when providing top-tier sustainment support, people are the most important resource for planning, preparing, and executing mobilization operations. Two essential factors for accomplishing successful mobilization operations are: 1. Conducting safe operations; 2. Securing the necessary equipment to the transportation platform being used to move Soldiers and their equipment.
Equipment may range from protective gear to military vehicles. Army Field Support Battalion-Hood’s six-person team of Blocking, Bracing, Packing, Crating, Tie-down inspectors conduct these two essential factors weekly in a professional manner. In 2022, AFSBn-Hood’s BBPCT team inspected 12,824 vehicles for safe and proper tie down to railcars, ensured regulatory preparation processes were followed and completed, and topped off all vehicles prior to departure.
The BBPCT inspection team at Fort Hood’s Rail Operations Center is led by deployment coordinator and team leader, Juan Diaz-Pollock. He is the primary point of contact for the rail tie-down class, container inspections, hazardous materials packaging and paperwork, vehicle inspections to be transported by railcar, and the wood packaging program. Diaz-Pollock also ensures that any wood leaving Fort Hood by rail complies with all federal guidelines and regulations.
He is supported by five inspectors: Michael Childress, John Todd, David Ransom, Arnold Bayani, and Luis Cartagena, all of whom are retired Soldiers now serving as Army Civilians. Diaz-Pollock and his team are a crucial component in the efficiency of numerous sustainment operations, especially during the rigorous times of deployments and redeployments when safety is always key for Soldiers’ welfare. Diaz-Pollock and his team supported seven unit deployments last year in support of contingency operations.
Diaz-Pollock was inspired to join the U.S. Army at a young age of 15 when he went to Fort Dix, New Jersey, to visit his uncle. As his uncle showed him the base, he saw Soldiers in Basic Training marching with their weapons and singing cadence. Witnessing Army life up close and following his father’s footsteps who served in the National Guard, convinced him to join when he became of age.
Diaz-Pollock served as a combat engineer and construction engineer and finished his military career as a recruiter. He retired as a sergeant first class serving 20.5 years and has now completed another eight years serving as a Department of the Army Civilian.
Diaz-Pollock said he has no plans to retire anytime soon as he now has time to travel and spend time with family and friends. “I’m a retired combat/construction engineer veteran, married with two children and two grandchildren. I like to work out. I want to stay healthy enough to be there for the ones that need me for years to come.”
In 2022, Diaz-Pollock and team supported four National Training Center rotations consecutively, and two NTC rotations for units within the 407th AFSB’s area of operations.
A typical day at the Rail Operations Center includes the BBPCT inspection team overseeing hundreds of Soldiers and a handful of train company contractors to conduct the tie-down of military vehicles to numerous railcars. Department of the Army Civilians and Soldiers work together to produce optimal outcomes, such as vehicle inspections that prioritize safety and readiness in the mass transportation field. The BBPCT inspection team requires Soldiers from the 49th Transportation Company Movement Control Team to assist the inspectors.
“I learn something different every time I’m out there working with Soldiers. That makes me better than yesterday,” Diaz-Pollock said. “It allows me to be a better mentor to my teammates and especially a better mentor for the Soldiers.”
At the Rail Operations Center, when Soldiers are collaborating with the BBPCT inspection team, one can see an abundance of Soldier-led ground guides leading vehicles to proper positions on the railcars.
Ground guides serve an important function as the “eyes” of vehicle operators because they lead vehicles safely and ensure accurate placement of the vehicles onto railcars for precise tie-down procedures. This ground guide process ensures that Soldiers and inspectors have vehicles in accurate positions on the railcars to facilitate tie-down protocols, which include chaining and securing vehicles.
There are several factors that can go wrong, such as chains that are too loose to chains that are not tied correctly. The inspectors and contractors take a hands-on approach to inspect every inch of the railyard, including supervising every vehicle that is tied down and assisting Soldiers to ensure mission success.
Asked what he was most thankful for while conducting these inspections, Diaz-Pollock said: “The mentorship most definitely. Knowing that I did my job to the best of my abilities and helping the Soldiers throughout the entire process – seeing how they are so appreciative for our efforts is very satisfying because I see how they take the initiative to learn and get better.”
Soldiers learn every day from practical experience at the railyard and at the Rail Operations Center classrooms, where Diaz-Pollock and his team lead with valuable instructions and insightful classroom discussions.
The BBPCT inspection team plays an integral process of ensuring many factors are supported – Soldiers wear safety helmets and personal protective equipment; vehicles are fueled; vehicles are guided safely and slowly onto railcars; vehicle operations are kept at and do not exceed 3 miles per hour; strong chains and hand tools are available; Soldiers, inspectors, and contractors work together to conduct, inspect and supervise vehicle-to-railcar tie-down operations; plus official paperwork is inspected and ensured it is correctly filled out – these are all essential for safe transportation and operational success. All these operations contribute to building and sustaining combat force capability.
“During deployments, we have to inspect containers, help Soldiers pack their hazardous materials protective gear, and ensure that HAZMAT paperwork is accurate. We must inspect vehicles to make sure that they are ready to be loaded and properly secured to the railcars,” Diaz-Pollock said. “We supervise the loading and tie-down of vehicles to the railcars to ensure that the train is loaded with the correct vehicles and vehicles are tied-down properly in accordance with the railroad guidelines so the train can make it to its destination without any incidents following all federal and state laws.”
Not only does the BBPCT inspection team conduct initial in-briefs and assistance for Soldiers on their way to deployments, they also conduct additional safety briefs to Soldiers who are supporting redeployment operations.
“We brief the Soldiers on all the safety aspects of downloading vehicles from the railcars and come up with a plan on how the non-mission capable vehicles will be downloaded, then, we supervise the process. The download process continues until all the railcars are empty,” Diaz-Pollock said.
The BBPCT inspection team’s dedication to the mission illustrates the power of our Army’s dedicated Department of the Army Civilians and their steadfast commitment to Army readiness. Diaz-Pollock and his team ensure that Soldiers have the proper tools necessary to adapt and thrive not only in the harsh conditions of combat warfare, but how to get there through railhead deployment operations.
Asked why the BBPCT Inspection team chose their profession in the Army, Diaz-Pollock said: “We love what we do because we continue to serve our country by supporting our Soldiers just like we received support when we wore the uniform.”
Editor’s note. The 407th Army Field Support Brigade is one of seven AFSBs whose higher headquarters is the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, headquartered at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. Besides its headquarters, the 407th AFSB is comprised of four Army Field Support Battalions at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Riley, Kansas; and, Fort Carson, Colorado.