For the first time in 10 years, the Rock Island Arsenal is shipping out hundreds of vehicles and equipment by rail for use in training exercises in Louisiana.
Members from the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Illinois Army National Guard have been loading more than 200 vehicles and pieces of equipment to be transported with the support of Iowa Interstate Railroad this week. The load left Wednesday for its destination at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The Illinois State Police provided support by weighing the vehicles prior to loading.
Maj. Adam Malaty-Uhr of the 33rd Brigade Infantry Combat Team acted as Officer in Charge for rail operations for the training. He is also executive officer of 2nd Battalion of the 106th Cavalry Brigade with the Illinois National Guard, based in Kewanee.
"We haven’t done this in over a decade," Malaty-Uhr said. "None of my soldiers have done this. We started off with a full day of training. To move these 200 pieces of equipment took about 2½ days. It’s a good opportunity for them to get that training."
Malaty-Uhr said it has been 10 years since this much equipment has been deployed from the Arsenal because the Army National Guard is on a five- and 10-year training plan.
It took approximately 80 soldiers to load the equipment, Malaty-Uhr said, and 4,500 Illinois National Guard members will follow the vehicles to Louisiana for a month-long training exercise. A total of 900 pieces of equipment is being shipped to Fort Polk, including equipment from Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
"Being able to move vehicles via rail is incredibly important for our ability to conduct contingency operations and be able to support the United States for any kind of military operations," Malaty-Uhr said.
Malaty-Uhr said there are six chocks (rail cars) of vehicles, with each chock holding about 30 vehicles. Each chock is comprised of eight rail cars.
Rock Island Arsenal Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Marr said shipping the vehicles gives the Arsenal a chance to showcase its logistical capabilities.
"It speaks to our relationship with the Army National Guard, that they are able to come here and use these facilities in order to facilitate their training down the road," Marr said.
"Most of these soldiers have never done this before; the first day is a little nervous," Malaty-Uhr said. "But with the great training they’ve received, it wasn’t too long before it became just another thing they do in the Army. Now we have 80 soldiers here and another 160 at our other location who are well trained in railroad operations. It’s a major part of what we do."