If your neighbor wants to borrow a cup of sugar, it’s no big deal, right? They come over with their cup, you fill it up and they go home.
What if your neighbor is more than 800 miles away and wants to borrow an M1A2 Abrams battle tank that is 32 feet long, 12 feet wide and weighs in at almost 70 tons? And what if he wants to borrow 14 of them?
That requires some thought and logistical planning.
That was the task set before Soldiers of the Kansas Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 635th Armored Regiment in April. The 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Mississippi Army National Guard, required the use of 14 M1A2 tanks for upcoming training events at Fort Bliss, Texas, and prevailed on the KSARNG for the use of their tanks.
“Planning for the Training Equipment Set 1 movement began in January of this year,” said 1st Lt. Zackery Adams, mobilization planner, 1-635th AR. “The logistical process begins with identifying the training requirement and creating an Annual Training Equipment Requirements form 156-R to reflect what pieces of equipment will be used throughout the operation.”
Adams said the 1-635th AR tanks came from the Maneuver and Training Equipment Site at Fort Riley. Once the tanks were identified, the next job was to ensure all the tanks met the Army 10/20 standard, which requires that all routine maintenance be completed, and all deficiencies repaired so the tanks are capable of conducting training.
“This is a continuous task that was performed all the way up to the load date,” said Adams.
Adams said the unit coordinated with the state Defense Movement Coordinator to reserve civilian resources for the movement. Seven rail cars were used due to size and weight limitations of traditional transportation equipment. The unit movement officer worked with the state DMC to create military shipping labels and radio frequency identification tag, allowing the unit to track the tanks in real time for their journey from Fort Riley to Fort Bliss.
“The unit stages the tanks in order as each ordered rail car has specific vehicle identification numbers associated with it,” said Maj. Michael Billings, 1-635th executive officer. “There are two tanks per rail car and each tank requires 16 separate chains to secure it. This is done in a very slow and safe manor because the 70-ton tank does hang off about four inches on both sides of the rail car. This requires very experienced Abrams drivers and experienced ground guides as a mishap could be catastrophic.”
The unit had the tanks loaded in almost one day,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Kevin Harsch, senior logistics warrant officer, Joint Forces Headquarters. “They had to come back the second day to finish up and complete the inspection process by Union Pacific Railways. Major Billings and his team made this process look like they did it every day, very smooth, even with starting the first day off in the rain.”
Harsch said the tanks will be in Texas for 45 days and will return to Kansas when the training is completed.