New railway car offers comfort to Soldiers

Pvt. John Hudspeth</b
21st Theater Support Command

***image1***Requirement: sit in an unheated room roughly 8-feet wide and 10-feet long with virtually no electricity or latrine. Only leave the room every eight to 10 hours for missions. Stay in this room for up to 10 days.
This used to be the general description of what rail car security duty was like for U.S. Army Europe Soldiers. The description changed drastically Tuesday when despite snow, school closures and early releases, new guard cars were given to the 21st Theater Support Command by representatives of the German railway, a semi-private organization much like Amtrak during an official ceremony at Rhine Ordnance Barracks.
One of the missions of the 21st TSC is to provide protection of sensitive items during transportation by rail. The items being guarded can include weapons, ammunition, explosives, armored vehicles and classified equipment all headed out in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom or other operations.
“At one time, guarding sensitive equipment for railhead missions was a dreaded detail,” said Capt. Christopher Wills, operations officer, 21st TSC’s Provost Marshal’s Office. “The railcars that the Soldiers traveled in were old passenger cars, which weren’t very comfortable; they usually had problems with the heating, had no way of storing food and had no electricity or running water.”
The actual mission of checking serial numbers of locks and rail cars frequently is not the hard part, said Staff Sgt. Donovon Herron of the 230th Military Police Company, ROB. He said his two-day mission in January 2003 on the old guard cars was not unbearable, but it wasn’t very comfortable either.
“It was freezing, but that guard car had a bathroom with running water,” Sergeant Herron said.
A seven-day stint was enough for Sgt. Beverly Price-Ihire, also of the 230th MP Company.
“Once you get cold, all you can think about is getting warm again,” Sergeant Price-Ihire said.
But it wasn’t the cold or having to bring seven-plus days worth of water and food supplies, it was when the water ran out and the latrines failed halfway through the mission that convinced her that the guard car mission is not a duty she is going to seek out, she said.
“I never wanted to do that again,” she said. Neither she nor the two other U.S. MPs nor the nine German soldiers who were on duty with her were happy about the mission.
Though she and Sergeant Herron have not yet pulled duty in the new car, the 95th Military Police Battalion can now rely on new, state-of-the-art railcars, which offer the comforts of mechanical reliability and improved life support features.
The new cars have an individual kitchenette with refrigeration, several showers and independent heating and cooling for the Soldiers. A long-lasting, independent power supply provides the ability to run mission-essential equipment as well as life support extras.
“Essentially, any amenity you can enjoy in the barracks, you’ll have in this railcar,” said Maj. Paul Heinlein, deputy provost marshal, 21st TSC.
“These new cars can support eight Soldiers, comfortably, for up to 11 days without using an outside power source,” he said.
“The cars are essentially self-sufficient,” said Captain Wills.
But it is not just comfort the new cars provide, but improved security as well as life support, said Captain Wills. A rested Soldier is more alert and can focus on mission requirements and this ensures Soldier safety.
“These missions have been pretty rough on Soldiers,” said Major Heinlein, “But now, once they see these new guard cars, I’m sure we won’t have any problems getting volunteers for these rail security missions.”