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Tanks Return to Fort Riley

By PFC Francisca Vega | 1st Infantry Division | April 11, 2007

The morning of March 2 may have been cold and windy, but that didn’t stop the civilian contractors at the Camp Funston railhead from unloading almost 200 armored vehicles returning to Fort Riley’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The around 60 M1A2 Abrams tanks and 120 Bradley Fighting Vehicles arrived to post early to support 3rd BCT’s 11-month accelerated stand up.

“We are getting the equipment now, and we are getting the Soldiers now,” said Col. Norbert Jocz, brigade commander. The short but intense training period will prepare 3rd BCT for any deployment, he added.

“We are finally receiving our first set of equipment to stand up our heavy modular combat team,” said 3rd BCT Command Sgt. Maj. James Savitski.

It’s important the 3rd BCT Soldiers learn the maintenance, operator and gunnery skills that have not been continuously trained on in the last couple of years, Savitski added.

The Soldiers should begin training with the vehicles in the late spring. They will concentrate on individual and collective tasks, and build up to the gunnery skills where they will perform as teams, companies, battalions and finally a brigade-level team, Savitski said.

Planning and coordination for the armored shipment began weeks ago the railway cars rolled onto post.

This sort of operation takes a lot of coordination, said Dick Wollenberg, Fort Riley transportation officer. It takes about a week to call all the contractors, and it takes time to get resources in place, he said.

The armored vehicles made their way to Fort Riley via the two port cities of Charleston, S.C., and Beaumont, Texas. It took about 48 hours to get the tanks here from Beaumont and 12 hours from Charleston, Wollenberg said. Once the shipments arrived, contractors used a crane to hoist the vehicles off of the railway cars.

When transportation office personnel learned about the shipment, they were unsure if enough drivers would be available to handle the shipment, Wollenberg said, which is why some tanks were not driven off the railway cars.

“We have the technique down. It’s much easier, much faster and much safer to lift the tanks off than it is to try and drive the tanks off,” Wollenberg said.

It took about 10 minutes to get each tank to the ground by crane. Although the vehicles came to 3rd BCT lightly used, they’ve received continual maintenance while in storage.

Fort Riley has been preparing for this for the last six months, Savitski said. Post personnel have opened up a lot of space in the motor pools on Custer Hill. Once maintenance checks are complete and any problems fixed, the tanks and Bradley’s will head to the battalions, he added.

Being ready for a deployment allows 3rd BCT to help out the Army as a whole, Savitski said. With another brigade in the rotation, units coming from Iraq and Afghanistan can spend more time at home.

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