Working on the railroad

20 Dec 2000 | Cpl. Valerie A. Martinez

'I think I can, I think I can, I think can,' said the little engine who could.
This little engine, scheduled to depart the rail yard here Dec. 23, will be transporting the equipment Marines and Sailors will use at the upcoming Combined Arms Exercise in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

The work and planning involved in this mission has been underway since June, according to Warrant Officer Mike Erickson, an embark officer with 6th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division here.

"When you have a lot of heavy equipment to transport, using the rail system is key," he said.

According to 1st Lt. Joseph J. Zwiller, the Landing Support Platoon commander with 2d Transportation Support Battalion, 2d Force Service Support Group here, this is a rare and unique opportunity for the Marines in the unit.

"This is only the second time in six to eight years that CAX has moved by railroad," Zwiller added. "It is uncommon to move by rail, so the experience itself is great."

Erickson of Charleston, Ill., added this opportunity is invaluable for future rail operations.

"Each time we do this we will gain experience on how to do it better for the next time," remarked Erickson.

According to Erickson, although the equipment for last winter's CAX was shipped by railroad, the normal method for transporting gear is by commercial vehicles.
He also explained the Corps is saving money using the railways.

"It costs half as much to the Marine Corps by using the railroads," said Erickson. "It normally costs around two and a half million roundtrip. This year the cost will be around $800,000."

Erickson added Marines will be waiting for the equipment at the scheduled drop-off point in Barstow, Calif.

"There will be Marines in Barstow on January 5th to receive the equipment," said Erickson. "From there, they will convoy the equipment to Twentynine Palms."
Before the train is allowed to depart, train inspectors must insure the safety of the equipment on the cars, he added.

"There are a lot of standards we have to go by, so the train inspectors will let us pull out," he said. "We had to strip the gear off the 5-tons because of the vibrations on the train."

He also added the hard work of the Marines loading the cars has put them ahead of schedule.

"So far, we are two days ahead of schedule," Erickson remarked. "The train should pull out on Saturday."