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Soldiers from the 94th Engineer Battalion prepare Saturday to loaded their vehicles onto rail cars in Vilseck, Germany. More than 500 vehicles were inspected and loaded onto rail cars and long-haul tractor-trailers during the six-day operation that ended Monday.
Soldiers from the 94th Engineer Battalion prepare Saturday to loaded their vehicles onto rail cars in Vilseck, Germany. More than 500 vehicles were inspected and loaded onto rail cars and long-haul tractor-trailers during the six-day operation that ended Monday. (Kathy Jordan / Courtesy of U.S. Army / S&S)

BAMBERG, Germany — Moving vehicles and equipment for a battalion-size unit deploying to Iraq takes more than just lining them up onto railcars and tractor-trailers.

The 409th Base Support Battalion, 529th Ordnance Company and 94th Engineer Battalion spent six days working around-the-clock to get the more than 500 vehicles and pieces of equipment ready and loaded for transportation to Kuwait, according to S. Joe Estores, 409th BSB mobilization officer.

Before the Installation Staging Area operation even began at Rose Barracks, the 409th BSB Public Affairs Office had to coordinate with local authorities to warn nearby towns of impending vehicle convoys that could potentially cause traffic bottlenecks, Estores said.

When the vehicles from the 94th Engineer Battalion, which deploys to Iraq early next year, arrived at Vilseck, the vehicles had to be cleaned before they could begin the process of being inspected and loaded onto railcars and trucks.

“Cleanliness is a part of it,” Estores said. “Often the vehicles have to be driven on the way to the ISA, and they are going to get dirty. If the captain of the ship [on which the vehicles will travel to Kuwait] says: ‘I don’t want that vehicle on my ship; it’s dirty and could contaminate my other cargo,’ then that’s it. The captain of the ship has the final say.”

That makes the 37 inspectors provided by the 529th Ordnance Company in Vilseck so important.

Although the inspectors had to scrutinize every vehicle being loaded, some prior coordination by the 529th Ordnance and a proactive approach from the 94th Engineers sped things along.

“For the most part, the 94th vehicles were in great condition,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sean Tafoya, who led the team of inspectors from the 529th Ordnance Company. “Out of 350 vehicles processed, only a couple had to be held up for more than two hours because they needed extra maintenance. Every vehicle made its rail time.”

“We met with the 94th before the operation began to go over their documentation,” Tafoya said. Documentation like the transportation control movement order, vehicle scanning document and dispatch must be in order to prevent delays at the port. “If those weren’t ready, we would have to spend about 45 minutes for each vehicle doing it at the site.”

The vehicles had to go through five stations of inspection before loading onto the railcars and tractor-trailers.

The loading of the equipment forced soldiers to work well into the night.

“There is a time line to meet that is dictated by the time that the train has to leave,” Estores said. “We can’t delay departure of the train.”

Since the trains had to depart at 2 a.m. and noon each day, personnel at the railhead spent hours before those times to get the vehicles ready to load in a timely manner, Estores said.

While the six-day staging area and railhead operations had to fall into a routine to be efficient, Estores, as the mobilization officer, said the mission is special to him.

“A lot of people may think of this as a routine mission, but it’s special to me,” said Estores, who served with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam.

“When I do what I’m doing and know that it’s benefiting the 1st ID, that’s gratifying. I told these young soldiers who were out here loading their vehicles that they are performing an important mission. I’m honored and privileged to be here doing this for them.”

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