875th Loadin' 'Em Up...Movin' 'Em Out!

JUNE 23, 2005 - Posted 2:41 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR - Deployments by local military units have become fairly commonplace in Region 8 since 9-11. They're certainly not new for the Jonesboro-based 875th Combat Engineers Batallion, which is once again on the move.

Civilian contractors and soldiers with the 875th have been hard at work for the past two days at a rail spur in the city's industrial park in east Jonesboro, near the Frito-Lay plant.  They are loading up several thousand tons of heavy equipment that includes bulldozers, 18-wheelers and humvees.

Their destination?  The Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California (http://www.irwin.army.mil/channels), where the National Guard's combat engineers participate in yearly training exercises.  "The manuever space that you have out there is totally unrestricted.  All the training areas out there have been assessed for environmental impact," said Captain Mike Henderson.  "We can train for full combat missions there."

The basic mission of the 875th is to support mechanized infantry and tank units in combat.  It's a job that requires heavy equipment, and moving this much of it can be a challenge.  That's where civilian contractors like Harold Nutt step in.  "Coordination...with the troops and the railroad, trying to get them on the same page," said Nutt.  "You have tie-down procedures and regulations that you have to go through."

It takes nearly two full days for these soldiers and contractors to load up 89 pieces of heavy equipment on 26 specially-equipped rail cars.  "Usually it's a two-day operation with this many rail cars," explained Master Sergeant Gary Cupp.  "I've got about 18 people helping me with seven civilian contractors giving us advice and things.  Usually it's a two-day operation, but we're gonna' beat that just a little bit."

After leaving Jonesboro, the rail cars will rendevous with another military train in Texas, before moving on to Fort Irwin.  Master Sergeant Cupp will lead a 35-man advance team to Fort Irwin, and his men will be there to meet the train for unloading when it arrives on July 8.