Railhead missions’ watchful eyes

Christine June, Story and photo
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

Two sets of eyes were watching every movement Feb. 9 when two KMC Army units unloaded 22 railcars during a railhead mission at the Rail Operations Center on Rhine Ordnance Barracks.

A railhead mission is the loading or unloading of vehicles and equipment for deployment downrange or redeployment to home station. It happens here up to 10 times a year under the watchful eyes of U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern transportation and safety personnel, who oversee missions for more than 40 KMC Army units.

***image1***It’s the deploying or redeploying units’ soldiers who carry out the railhead mission of loading or unloading equipment. On this day, 22 Soldiers unloaded 16 vehicles and 51 pieces of equipment that had just arrived from a year-long deployment downrange.

“We are going to get everything home,” said Capt. Jesse Delgado, 236th Medical Detachment (Air Ambulance) Headquarters platoon leader. “We are going to do it slowly and safely because it would be ridiculous for us to get hurt here when we all (130 Soldiers) made it back from downrange safe and sound.”

Most of this equipment belonged to the 236th Med Det (AA), located at the Landstuhl Heliport on Kirschberg Kaserne, outside the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. One container was for the 64th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Service), based on Pulaski Barracks.

“It’s not rocket science or the most dangerous thing in the world, but certainly, there’s danger present at a railhead mission so the key is to have someone who knows what they are doing,” said Capt. John Zillhardt, 64th Med Det (VS) executive officer, who was carrying out his seventh railhead mission.

“The Army recognizes the importance of effective leadership and communication during a railhead operation,” he said. “From my prespective, the garrison is taking the lead in ensuring that the units’ leadership takes charge and ensures safety briefings and onsite risk assessments are given at railhead missions.”

Garrison Kaiserslautern personnel assist unit safety NCOs with safety briefings, conducting risk assessments with the onsite commander and watching every movement from dislodging bracing blocks from vehicles to crane operations, said Melissa Hastings, USAGK safety manager.

“We are another set of eyes to watch over the entire mission,” said Ms. Hastings, who has watched over railhead mission for almost three years without a single mishap. “We are experienced professionals, and we know what to watch out for.”