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News | May 31, 2024

32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers complete ‘largest rail movement with civilian linehaul Wisconsin National Guard has ever done’

By Scott Sturkol 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team

Warrant Officer 1 Eric Frank with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) said an effort to put 800 pieces of equipment on nearly 200 railcars at Fort McCoy was “the largest rail movement with civilian linehaul the Wisconsin National Guard has ever done.”

The 32nd IBCT sent its equipment and vehicles for a future rotation of training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Johnson (formerly Fort Polk), La. Frank said the rail movement was about six months in the making.

“Basically, I built this plan from scratch with the help of all my (unit mobility officers) from all over the state,” Frank said. “Putting each and every single piece of equipment on the railcar takes consideration of length, width, height, and all of the dimensions. Certain rail cars can only handle certain pieces of equipment.”

Wisconsin National Guard units have completed many rail movements at Fort McCoy in the past.

For example, the 107th Support Maintenance Company of the Wisconsin National Guard had 24 railcars of equipment unloaded at Fort McCoy in July 2022.

In November 2020, Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 829th Engineer Company (Vertical Construction) had an offload rail operation at Fort McCoy that included 37 railcars containing 102 pieces of rolling stock and container emptying operations, according to the Fort McCoy Logistics Readiness Center (LRC) Transportation Division, which also helped with the current 32nd rail movement to JRTC.

In July 2019, military vehicles and equipment, most belonging to the 1158th Transportation Company and some for the 107th Surface Maintenance Company of the Wisconsin National Guard, were loaded on railcars at Fort McCoy. More than 70 pieces of equipment were loaded on to more than 40 railcars, Fort McCoy LRC officials said.

And according to unit history, the last time a rail movement close to this size took place from Fort McCoy was in the mid-1980s. In January 1986, the 32nd participated in Reforger '86 where the entire brigade deployed from Wisconsin with all of its equipment to Germany.

On a Facebook post related to the 2024 rail movement, some Wisconsin National Guard veterans, and veterans of the Reforger ’86 training, discussed big rail movements and the historical rail operation in the 1980s.

Sheri Swokowski wrote, “Reminiscent of Reforger ‘86 rail load for a tad more than 200 vehicles to Savannah for movement of 5,000 of us to Germany.”

Thomas Lovgren, property book officer at Fort McCoy’s Central Issue Facility, added a reply to Swokowski. “I was there on Reforger ‘86 in Grafenwoehr … securing the vehicles to the rail cars. … I can still feel the cold mist at 0400 hours, but it was an amazing opportunity for a 22-year-old specialist 4. Best job ever.”

Frank said once the JRTC training is completed for the 32nd at Fort Johnson, all the equipment will be loaded back on railcars and brought back to Fort McCoy where it will be offloaded at a later date.

Fort McCoy’s motto is to be the “Total Force Training Center.” Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.

The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services nearly every year since 1984.