***image1***A frequently heard phrase in the Army is “Train as you fight.” As units begin to deploy for the second rotation of Operation Iraqi Freedom, more equipment will move by rail. So, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 21st Theater Support Command, recently completed railhead operations training at Rhine Ordnance Barracks.
HOC, Troop Support Battalion, 21st TSK is just one of several units rehearsing unit-level railhead operations to lessen risk factors involved in such operations.
“The minimum risk assessment for any rail operation is moderate,” said Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Tudela, Transportation supervisor at 21st TSK. “There are too many moving pieces involved and high risk of electrical shock, not to mention the the blocking, bracing and tie-down equipment.”
Railhead OIC/NCOIC, railhead safety officer, train commander and train safety officer help plan, rehearse, execute and conclude a rail operation. Each and every Soldier involved should practice safety and risk assessments constantly, said 1st Sgt. Michael Wallace, HOC first sergeant.
“Even with good planning and control measures, Soldiers should be vigilant and continue to conduct risk assessments and implement controls even as they execute the operation,” Sergeant Wallace said.
Incidents such as electrical shock, falling off the rail car, becoming pinched between vehicles, vehicles dropping off the rail car or ramp, head or body injury and weather related injuries can happen if leaders don’t implement controls and Soldiers become complacent.
In general, Soldiers performing a railhead operation need to wear their battle dress uniform blouses with the sleeves down. They should also wear hard hats or Kevlars with gloves and reflective belts. Soldiers must remain vigilant for vehicle and personnel movement, since one of the hallmarks of a rail operation is the constant movement of vehicles and equipment. Several additional considerations are that Soldiers should remove all jewelry before working.
Railhead, ground guides should never walk backwards, and Soldiers taking medication that makes them drowsy should report this info to the NCOIC or OIC.
Soldiers should hand down chock blocks when on the cars and should carry the sharp points of the chock blocks away from their body. Chains or cables should not be carried over the shoulder. Soldiers should also not jump from rail cars or go underneath a rail car to get to the other side of the train, Sergeant Tudela said.
“This is not an operation that a unit can expect to just show up at the railhead and conduct the operation without following the certification guidelines and use of a checklist,” Sergeant Tudela said. “Because rail operations can be very dangerous, the risk management process begins in the planning phase and continues until the operation is complete.”
Tie-down equipment handling:
• Inspect wooden chock blocks for protruding nails and splinters.
• When handling metal chock blocks, carry with sharp points away from your body.
• Do not carry tie-down chains or cables over your shoulder.
• Check for metal splinters and oil.
• Never straddle cables and braces while tightening.
• Never throw down tie-down equipment. Set them down.
Tracks, Ramps and Rail Cars:
• Watch for overhead electrical wires and light poles between the tracks.
• Check for nails, splinters and sharp objects on rail cars.
• Use buddy system when lowering or raising side walls.
• Never jump off the rail car, or go underneath to get to the other side.
• Use a minimum of two ground guides per vehicle when loading or unloading.
• Only licensed operator will operate the vehicle. Clear all obstructions.