Travelers on Interstate 90 saw a slew of military vehicles — more than 650 vehicles and pieces of military equipment — on 300 commercial trucks making a cross-country trip April 14 to Tuesday from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to the Midwest.
The commercial line haul is the largest number of vehicles to make the trek for the annual training exercise at Camp Atterbury, Ind., in support of Vibrant Response and Guardian Response, according to Nick Kostelecky, installation transportation officer for JBLM’s Installation Transportation Division.
“We do this every day, just not in this volume,” Kostelecky said, as he pointed to four separate areas near the Logistics Readiness Center filled with lines of military vehicles, ramps and commercial trucks.
Normally, the exercise involves 100 to 150 commercial truckloads of vehicles and equipment, Kostelecky said, a retired chief warrant officer. Because the loading area is near the Logistics Center Gate, by exit 123 of Interstate 5, the vehicles didn’t disrupt traffic much, despite current construction and road repair projects nearby on the installation.
The load was planned primarily over the Easter weekend and trucks were staged along nearby side roads to lower the impact on JBLM commuters, Kostelecky said.
Commercial trucks began arriving each day at about 5:30 a.m. and were able to get loaded, then go right back on I-5 and go north to I-90 for the rest of the trip eastward, he said.
Loading alone for the vehicles took place from April 14 to Tuesday, with Soldiers loading their own equipment and the commercial truck drivers doing the tie downs. All of the vehicles and equipment were weighed and measured prior to being assigned to the individual commercial trucks. The loading also was coordinated with JBLM’s directorate of Emergency Services, Kostelecky said.
The exercise involves 1,100 service members from JBLM’s 555th Engineer Brigade; 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade and 62nd Medical Brigade. The service members will fly out Friday to Sunday on charter flights out of McChord Field, Kostelecky said.
Loading vehicles on the trucks went smoothly and quickly — much faster than expected, said Arthur Green, unit movement coordinator with the Installation Transportation Division.
“There’s still the paperwork for the truck drivers, but the loading portion went fast,” Green said.
Loading the trucks went well in part because of skilled service members, such as Sgt. Sophia Howard, 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade, who drove her Field Litter Ambulance up a ramp, following the instructions of another service member aboard a commercial vehicle.
She said her vehicle tires weren’t getting a good grip, but with a few wood blocks and beams positioned in front of the vehicle wheels, she was able to drive her front wheels up onto a platform at the head of the truck bed. Then came the task of climbing out the driver’s side door, with only inches of truck bed on which to place her feet.
“It’s all about trust,” she said, after walking off the ramp. “It’s not bad at all, driving the vehicles onto the trucks, but it’s definitely about trust.”