By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellFebruary 8, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. -New Army Reserve neighbors moved on post Feb. 7 as the first of more than 4,000 vehicles, generators, trailers and other equipment began arriving from Fort Gillem, Ga.
Several M1045 Palletized Loading System trucks arrived on commercial flatbed trucks at Lawson Army Airfield to be offloaded and taken to a secured location.
During the next six months, a team of more than 100 military technicians assigned to the 81st Regional Support Command's Equipment Concentration Site 43 will begin occupying temporary facilities until construction of new state-of-the-art facilities including a 50,000 square foot maintenance facility and 150,000 square foot high bay storage warehouse are scheduled to be completed in late summer 2011.
Because of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission's decision to close Fort Gillem, the ECS 43 has been busy preparing for the 120-mile journey, said Darrell Shelton, the ECS shop manger.
Shelton said it is not easy to plan, coordinate and execute a move of this magnitude.
"This is a team effort on all levels," he said. "The Fort Benning staff has been great and very helpful in this painful process. We did it though, without a hitch."
Before the sun broke the Fort Gillem horizon, teams of ECS employees gathered their protective helmets and eye protection gear and assembled in the freezing temperatures surrounded by nearly a dozen commercial flatbed trucks filling the air with sounds of idling diesel engines.
"We love this weather," shouted one mechanic as he checked his breath against the cold air. "It's not an Army day unless it's a cold day."
As small teams gathered seemingly sporadically throughout the makeshift operations center outside, team leaders worked with truck drivers to ensure safety was the number one priority.
"My team has worked so hard on this move, and my number one concern is their safety," Shelton said. "We can move thousands of pieces of equipment from our yard and warehouses and can call this a success, but it only takes one accident where someone gets hurt or injured to turn a great thing bad."
As ECS employees started four nearby PLS trucks, the sounds of the accelerators being slightly pressed filled the parking lot and caused small smoke plumes in the sea of dozens of military equipment.
The sight of the white smoke triggered one employee to raise his arms in the air with a clipboard in one hand and coffee cup in the other - spilling his coffee down his coat sleeve.
With the truck windows de-iced and flatbed trucks ready, ground guides carefully maneuvered the military equipment onto the awaiting trailers.
Truck drivers worked with the ECS employees to ensure the trucks were placed correctly onto the already tight-fitting platforms.
The massive PLS truck tires consumed nearly every available space as drivers secured the large vehicles with dozens of chains for the short drive southeast of Atlanta.
As the airbrakes were released, trucks pulled out of Fort Gillem and snaked their way through Atlanta's morning traffic down the Interstate 85, which connects Atlanta and Columbus, Ga.
A couple hours later, the trucks wound their way through the construction-heavy Fort Benning and slowly down the hill to the airfield normally used for paratroopers of the U.S. Army Airborne School.
As Shelton mentally checked off each piece of equipment, the truck drivers turned onto the awaiting airfield for a quick offload before heading back to begin the journey again - a process that will last several months.
"This is an important process to ensure the Army Reserve has the right resources in the right place," Shelton said. "It is our mission at the ECS to give Reserve commanders the assurance their vehicles are ready for any mission at any time."
ECS 43 supports seven southeastern states and 120 different Army Reserve units with vehicles and more than 5,000 different types of equipment and supplies military units use to perform their missions, said Patrick Burns, the 81st RSC's director of logistics, based at Fort Jackson, S.C.
Burns said if required, the ECS 43 has the capability to maintain up to 4,500 vehicles.
"The ECS and Area Maintenance Support Activity shops have an important role in today's Army Reserve readiness," Burns said. "We have dedicated employees who take pride in their work."
Burns, who heads more than 800 employees located at 37 ECS and AMSA shops across the southeast, said that sometimes their hard work goes unnoticed.
"These military technicians work very hard at their jobs," he said. "To pull off a move like this with the conditions we gave them is great. To pick up and begin moving an entire shop operation while still performing the mission is extremely difficult. If it wasn't for great leadership and positive employees there, it wouldn't be possible."