Fort McCoy News April 8, 2016

Rail capabilities support multiple efforts

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Rail operations have increased at Fort McCoy in 2016. Dozens of railcars already have been loaded with Army assets for shipment to multiple stateside and overseas operations, said Installation Transportation Officer David. J. Eckland with the Logistics Readiness Center (LRC) Transportation Division.

Two rail shipments totaling 137 railcars were completed in March. The equipment was sent to overseas contingency operations. Two smaller shipments were planned for early April to support an overseas exercise and a National Training Center rotation.

Photo: Members of Fort McCoy rail crew with Accent Controls Inc. move railcars into place at the installation rail yard in March.
Members of the Fort McCoy rail crew with Accent Controls Inc. move
railcars into place at the installation rail yard in March.

"Over the last two years, we've seen the training mission with rail operations support start to pick up again," Eckland said. "We had active-duty armored units coming out of Fort Riley (Kan.) to deploy here by rail and then redeploy. But that was two movements a year. This year is certainly much busier."

The railhead at Fort McCoy has nearly 7 1/2 miles of track. Eckland said the installation's outload capabilities play a role in being an option of choice for many units that are deploying equipment.

"In terms of power projection, Fort McCoy is very important," Eckland said. "We can deploy anything the Army has by rail, or by air through utilization of (nearby) Volk Field, by inland river barge out of Brownsville (Minn.), or by commercial truck.

"Our rail capability is a key portion of this strategic relevance," Eckland said.

A team of four contract employees — team chief, a conductor, and two engineers — who keep the rail mission and readiness on track. The Fort McCoy rail crew is with Accent Controls Inc. (ACI). The team supports the management and operation of one diesel electric, 120-ton locomotive.

"Our team is the operator of the Fort McCoy locomotive, but we also complete weekly preventative maintenance checks and services (PMCS) to ensure it is always ready for use," said ACI Transportation Supervisor Chris Brown.

"Without a rail crew and the locomotive, we would not have the ability to move rail cars in support of these missions," Eckland said.

"This would require us to contract a civilian rail company to perform locomotive operations, which would greatly increase costs. Sustaining a rail crew and locomotive provides Fort McCoy with a capability that only 10 other installations have within the continental United States."

Photo: Railcars loaded with Army equipment await movement on Fort McCoy’s cantonment area.
Railcars loaded with Army equipment await movement on Fort McCoy's cantonment area.

LRC Transportation Division Unit Movement Coordinator Joan Huber has led the effort to coordinate the 2016 rail shipments. She communicates with the units on the modes of transportation and the installations ability to support each, including use of rail capability as a cost-effective shipment method for large-volume moves, Eckland said.

Brown said the rail crew receives documentation from Huber and the Unit Movement Section that provides detailed instructions on where the railcars need to be. "Then we'll carry on with the work that needs to be done," he said.

In addition to the rail lines, the Transportation Division's new Container Loading Facility, building 2100, has had increased usage during the rail movements.

"Building 2100 is a great asset," Eckland said. "It's a success story and a great capability to have as it's a building designed primarily for us to use for container operations."

During the first three months of 2016, Eckland said more than 120 containers were processed through the facility.

"All of those containers were going to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility," he said.

More rail movements are planned as the year progresses.

"We have another unit that will be supporting overseas operations — an engineer unit from Iowa will conduct a rail operation during the last week of May," Eckland said. "There also are other engineer units that have been identified later in the year that will use Fort McCoy to deploy their equipment."

Improvements to the rail infrastructure at Fort McCoy also are planned, Eckland said. The Directorate of Public Works (DPW) will coordinate the work, which includes establishing a loading/unloading area that allows heavy, tracked vehicles direct access to the installation tank trail.

"That will provide heavy armor units the capability to move to and from the training areas a lot easier," Eckland said. "We also will be updating all the rail crossings on post with new concrete rail crossings. Then, over the course of the next five years … DPW is working on replacing a majority of the railroad ties. And, (it) also will upgrade most of our tracks to a heavier gauge to allow for heavier loads."

For more information about Fort McCoy's rail operations, call 608-388-3966.