172nd Infantry Brigade ships tanks, gear for deployment

A 172nd Infantry Brigade soldier guides a tank as it is loaded onto a train at Grafenwöhr on Monday.

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 28, 2008

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The 172nd Infantry Brigade loaded tanks, armored personnel carriers and Humvees on trains here Monday for the first leg of a journey to Iraq.

The brigade of more than 3,500 soldiers heads to the desert next month for a year-long mission.

When the unit deployed to Iraq in 2006, as the 2nd "Dagger" Brigade, it moved hundreds of vehicles from Germany to the Middle East.

This time the brigade is only taking about 75 vehicles, according to the officer in charge of the railhead operation, Capt. Mike Gunther, 32, of Mundelein, Ill.

Instead of moving equipment from Germany, 172nd troops will pick up the new heavily armored MRAP vehicles, armored Humvees and other equipment in Kuwait, he said.

Gunther said the process of loading vehicles on trains, which started last week, has run smoothly and safely.

Getting a tank on a flatbed rail car is a tricky business.

The 68-ton Abrams Main Battle Tank is slightly wider than a German flatbed rail car so the drivers and ground guides have little room for error as they guide the massive vehicles onto the train.

One wrong move and a tank can slide off the rail car and flip — a dangerous proposition for anyone inside.

Pfc. Eric Schmidt, 20, of Oak Hill, W.Va., a driver loading tanks onto the train on Monday, said he could not see the rail car as he drove forward.

"I’m not worried. I did this at Hohenfels when we were training there. I trust the ground guides," he said.

Deployment specialist Tony Berry, who helped Gunther supervise the railhead operation, said the brigade is also taking 385 containers full of gear to Iraq.

The equipment and vehicles will head by rail to the German port of Bremerhaven before it is shipped to Kuwait, he said.

172nd Infantry Brigade soldiers guide tracked vehicles to the railhead on Monday at Grafenwöhr, Germany. The 172nd is preparing for a yearlong deployment to Iraq in November.

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