A formal ground-breaking ceremony was held at Fort Drum in northern New York marking the beginning of construction on $31.5 million in improvements to the railhead there, greatly enhancing the ability of military personnel to deploy more quickly and safely.
Representing the Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, was Deputy Commander Col. Matthew Pride who gave remarks to an audience of U.S. Army Officials, Soldiers, engineers and Army Corps personnel stationed there.
“The importance of this project cannot be underestimated,” said Pride. “The new railhead will facilitate the ability to project power around the world more quickly and safely. All aspects of the new railhead are being built for a 40-plus-year design life serving Fort Drum well into the mid-21st century.”
U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division
Expected to be complete in late 2023, improvements will benefit the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division ─ a joint team of specially-trained U.S. Soldiers and airmen performing operations in rugged, mountainous terrain. Re-activated in 1985 as one of the U.S. Army’s new light-infantry divisions, special capabilities enable a wide range of global missions, adding a new dimension to the strategic mobility of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Some new features include:
▶ A mile of new track with four parallel tracks and five new loading ramps, allow simultaneous drive-on loading of rolling stock.
▶ Container-side loading area allowing container boxes to be loaded (the current railhead lacks this capability.)
▶ A 5,000 sq. ft. Railhead Operations Building with restrooms and space for 100 Soldiers to break from deployment operations, especially during harsh weather.
▶ Scale house with weigh-in motion and profiling system to expedite loading operations
▶ Marshalling yard (an area where railway cars are separated onto different tracks)
▶ Alert holding area (a control area for equipment and vehicles prior to loading)
▶ Container-handling and storage/repair facility with staging area
Safety Top Priority
Safe rail operations are crucial to a successful deployment, requiring advance planning and training. To that end, a safety officer and non-commissioned officer (an enlisted soldier with specific skills and duties) oversee operations. This is critical: A great deal of manpower is needed to lift/move heavy equipment and hazards do exist, especially during adverse weather conditions. Safeguards must be in place to reduce risk of accidents and injuries.
History of Issues
A January 2019 deployment clearly illustrates the need for upgraded facilities:
Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team,10th Mountain Division, were launching load operations for deployment to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, LA, when harsh weather conditions set in. Three feet of snow, blizzard conditions and wind chills of -30 degrees hampered operations and created dangerous conditions for Soldiers handling heavy equipment.
A local news story published shortly thereafter recounted the difficulties:
“On top of everything, we had a problem with guys staying warm,” said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Kohut, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, D Company, 1-87 Infantry. “They’re on top of those trucks in minus-degree winds, gloves getting soaked from snow and ice. We had to rotate them out to get warm for three to five minutes before they had to come back. The closest building for them to get warm in was a little less than a mile walk.”
Located near the Canadian border where harsh winters are common, Fort Drum is a sprawling facility encompassing 107,000 acres, employing 4,700 civilians and training some 80,000 troops each year with nearly 20,000 Soldiers and their families stationed there.