Crucial 2nd Brigade Combat Team equipment was recently loaded on to three barges to be moved down the Cumberland, Ohio, Mississippi and Red rivers to the Joint Readiness Training Center-Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Strike sent more than 1,300 pieces of rolling equipment and containers from Lock C in Indian Mound, Tennessee, to Fort Polk. The equipment will be used during the brigade’s rotation as 2nd BCT Soldiers take on Geronimo in August.
“Our responsibility is to outload the brigade equipment to Joint Readiness Training Center,” said Lt. Col. Laura Hutchinson, commander of 526th BSB, 2nd BCT.
“We started the weeklong process getting all of the equipment through initial inspection and staged to come Lock C. On July 21 and 22, we’ve hauled all of the equipment from Fort Campbell in stages where it was loaded onto the barges to head down to Fort Polk,” she said.
In 2019, Fort Campbell and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers partnered to refurbish Lock C, located near the installation on the Cumberland River. Upon completion of the lock project, Fort Campbell officially took over operational control Aug. 30, 2019.
By using Lock C to transport equipment via barge versus rail, the Army can save money. On just this one rotation to JRTC the Army saved $3 million, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Arnold Justice, 326th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
“Lock C was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to utilize the Cumberland River in the 1940s,” Justice said. “It was not used much in the past. We used it during Desert Storm to roll vehicles out on barges.”
The 326th BEB, 1st BCT, oversees the use of Lock C, and the battalion expects to move 1st Brigade Combat Team’s equipment through in the coming months for its fall rotation to JRTC, he said.
“Looking ahead, we have two or three brigades traveling to JRTC every year,” Justice said.
This is one of the resources available to the 101st Airborne Division to project power globally, Hutchinson said.
“We can load equipment out to any port and it can go out to sea to anywhere else,” she said. “When you drive equipment all the way down to a location, you open yourself up to a lot of maintenance issues. Going into a training situation, you want your equipment as ready as it can possibly be. Using a barge, the equipment can get down there in eight to 12 days and the amount of Soldiers needed to bring it down there is much smaller.”
Yazoo River Towing is the barge operator moving Strike’s equipment. In addition to the barge crew, two Strike Soldiers are traveling on each barge. These Soldiers, called “super cargo,” are responsible for securing sensitive equipment being transported.
“We’re taking a pretty broad menu of equipment from across the brigade,” Hutchinson said. “We’re taking fueling equipment, water carrying equipment, medical equipment, all types of digging and transportation equipment.”
The Strike Soldiers transporting the equipment from Fort Campbell and loading it on the barges continued to follow COVID-19 safety precautions that included wearing the proper personal protective equipment and social distancing.
“You can’t stop training, we have to be able to put our Soldiers out to answer our nation’s call,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve been able to figure out how to protect ourselves and continue our training while answering the call. Once the equipment is gone, we’ll start testing our Soldiers [for COVID-19] to make sure they are healthy and ready to go to training, so we can minimize exposure and we are confident for setting the example that we can continue to train while exercising precaution.”