You are on page 1of 7

THE MILITARY RAILWAY SERVICE FROM KOREA TO AFGHANISTAN

With special thanks to: COL David T. Pollard, COL Robert M. Pelletier, MAJ
Scott D. Meyer, MR George Gounley & MR Tim O. Moriarty
The Korean War would be the last overseas (OCONUS) military involvement
that would see the deployment of tactical Military Railway Service units. After
exercising command and control over US rail interest in post-WWII Japan, the
3d Transportation Military Railway Service (TMRS) was inactivated on
January 25, 1950, with its responsibilities assumed by the much smaller
8010th TMRS (Provisional). With the onset of the Korean War on June 25,
1950, the 8010th split its forces, sending half to Korea to form the 8059th
TMRS (Provisional). The 8059th was the first US rail unit in Korea effective
July 1, 1950, following the outbreak of the Korean War. Following closely was
the 709th Transportation Railway Grand Division (TRGD) arriving in mid-July.
Both the 8059th TMRS and 709th TRGD were inactivated with the
reactivation of the 3d TMRS on August 26, 1950. The 3d TMRS provided
command and control over US Army rail units as well as operational control
over the Korean National Railways (KNR).

The first three rail operating units to be assigned to the 3rd TMRS were the
714th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion (TROB) on August 26,
1950, the newly activated (August 1, 1950) 764th Transportation Railway
Shop Battalion (TRSB) on August 30, 1950, and the 765th TRSB on August
31, 1950. All deployed from Ft. Eustis. These were followed by two mobilized
Organized Reserve TROBs, the 712th on December 23, 1950, and the 724th
on June 25, 1951. Prior to deployment in May 1951, a small 724th TROB
advanced party spent time at Oakland Army Base familiarizing with new
Army SW-8 diesel locomotives (# 2000 and # 2001) with training provided
by builder General Motors Electro-Motive Division. With the arrival of the
724th TROB , the 714th TROB redeployed to Ft. Eustis on August 12, 1951.
The understrength 764th TRSB, less personnel and equipment, redeployed to
Japan on August 30, 1951, where it was inactivated on November 21, 1951.
A fourth Organized Reserve unit, the 729th TROB, from Middletown, CT, was
mobilized at Fort Eustis on September 6, 1950. The 729th TROB did not
deploy but served as a rail training unit at both Fort Eustis and on a TDY
basis at Fort Meade, MD. In addition to the facilities at Fort Eustis, rail
training during the Korean War era was conducted on the Baltimore & Ohio
RR at various Baltimore, MD, locations and on the Chesapeake and Ohio RY
at Richmond, VA. On August 2, 1952, the unit was inactivated reverting to
Organized Reserve status and returning to its home station.

With active combat ending on July 27, 1953, following the signing of the
armistice, US rail operations began to draw down. The 765th Transportation
Battalion (Railway Shop) was inactivated in theater on December 20, 1954.
The 712th TROB departed theater on January 20, 1955, followed by the
724th TROB on May 26, 1955. Both returned to their home stations in
Philadelphia, PA, only to be inactivated prior to year's end. On March 27,
1954, the 3d TMRS was redesignated the 3d Transportation Railway
Command (TRC). Simultaneous with the return of the KNR from US to Korean
government control, the 3d TRC was inactivated on June 15, 1955.
During the Viet Nam war era, several rail units were activated at Fort Eustis
to include eleven Transportation Detachments (Railway Station) on 1 June
1966; the 157th Transportation Company, (Diesel - Electric Locomotive
Repair) and the 663rd Transportation Company (Railway Car Repair) on 1
April 1967; and the 716th Transportation Group (Railway) on 25 January
1968. The 716th Transportation Group, with lineage as a World War II
Railway Operating Battalion, time as an active unit would be short lived as it
was inactivated on 3 September 1968. The only rail units to be deployed to
Viet Nam would be the 149th, the 525th and 526th Transportation
Detachments (Railway Station) Team EC along with five Transportation
Detachments (Railway Station) Team EB, the 149th, 470th, 513th, 514th and
515th. EB Teams were authorized 3 enlisted with a mission to operate an online railway station. Assigned as documentation specialists to the 507th
Transportation Group (Traffic Management Agency) (TMA). they quickly lost
their rail identity and were absorbed into the parent organization.
While no operating operating units were deployed to Viet Nam, limited
military use was made of the rail network that remained operable. This was
primarily around port cities to nearby depots and installations. Actual
operations were conducted under a Host Nation (HN) agreement by the Viet
Nam Railway (Hoa Xa Viet Nam). For example, during 1970 -71, trains
operated from Bridge Ramp in Da Nang to Phu Bai, carrying rations, fuel, and
construction materials to 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), and gravel for
roads from Camp Sally, north of Hue, toward Phu Bai. During this period the
railroad also began to be used for retrograde material from Phu Bai to Bridge
Ramp after the railroad successfully handled a short notice request to carry
helicopter rotor blades to meet up with the repair ship USNS Corpus Christi
Bay.
Interface between US forces and the Vietnamese Railway was conducted by
the Military Assistance Command Viet Nam (MACV) rail liaison office and the
TMA. During the US involvement, the Vietnamese Railways were operating
with French built steam and diesel-electric locomotives along with US built
General Electric diesel-electrics provided as foreign aid. In addition, the
Army sent several Plymouth built diesel-hydraulic locomotives in TC paint

from Thailand to country for Vietnamese use. Freight equipment was a


mixture of French built and US foreign aid cars built by Pullman-Standard.
The post Viet Nam troop draw down was not kind to the Army rail structure.
Units activated at Fort Eustis but not deployed were inactivated or returned
to reserve status. The 714th Transportation Battalion (Railway Operating)
(Steam & Diesel Electric) itself was inactivated on 22 June 1972 leaving all
rail operating capability in the Army Reserve (USAR). With the inactivation of
the 714th, the 1st Railway Detachment was established at Fort Eustis to
carry on some of the battalion's mission including individual training of Army
railway soldiers, hosting reserve railway units during their annual training,
and operating the post utility railway. Railway MOS's were deleted from the
active Army in May 1976 and the 1st Railway Detachment itself would be
inactivated on 30 September 1978.

By the mid -1970s the USAR rail force structure was reduced to the 3d
Transportation Brigade (St. Louis, MO), 67th Transportation Group (Railway)
(Jacksonville, FL)(affiliated with SCL), the 706th Transportation Group
(Railway) (Chester, PA), the 717th Transportation Battalion (Railway
Operating) (Philadelphia, PA), the 729th Transportation Battalion (Railway
Operating) (Middletown, CT), the 757th Transportation Battalion (Railway
Shop) (Milwaukee, WI), along with a handful of company-level units. Most
were inactivated by the end of the decade, to include the 3d Transportation
Brigade on December 31, 1976, the 706th Transportation Group on June 30,
1976 and 717th Transportation Battalion on September 15, 1975. The 729th
Transportation Battalion was inactivated on September 30, 1976 with its
assets, through a series of reorganizations and reflaggings, later emerged as
the 1205th Transportation Railway Services Unit (TRSU). The 1205th TRSU
mission was to provide domestic (CONUS) railway operating and track
maintenance support to the Military Traffic Management Command's (MTMC)
Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, NC (MOTSU). The headquarters of the
757th Transportation Battalion was inactivated on 16 December 1980,
leaving the subordinate numbered railway companies as separate units, and
was then reactivated on 16 May 1985. The 67th Transportation Group
remained active until October 1, 1986. In the wake of its inactivation, the
416th Transportation Battalion (Railway) was activated on September 16,
1987, as a composite unit with 45 personnel to provide railway operation
planning rather than actual operating capability. It too was inactivated during
the post-Cold War drawdown in February 1994.

For forty-five years from its inception in December 1945, the Berlin Duty
Train provided not only transportation between Frankfurt, Bremerhaven and
Berlin, but served as a Cold War symbol of the Allies exercising transit rights
through East Germany to the divided city of Berlin. US Army crew members
aboard included a train commander, typically a TC Lieutenant, a TC NCO
conductor, Military Police, and a radio operator. Conductor duties included
processing passengers and overseeing the crew in the absence of the train
commander, who rode only through the East German portion of the trip. The
train was operated by German rail employees from the Deutsche
Bundesbahn (DB) in the West and the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) in the East.
Included as one of the many passengers, Elvis Presley rode the train in 1958
as part of his Army career. With the coming to end of the Cold War,
elimination of Soviet checkpoints, and the reunification of Germany; the
political justifications for the train ceased to exist. The Berlin Duty Train's last
run was on December 8, 1990.

Utilization of Army railroaders during the First Iraq War was limited. The only
unit to be mobilized was the 1205th TRSU that reported to MTMC's MOTSU
terminal to augment the civilian workforce. Volunteers from the 757th TROB
deployed to several US installations to include Fort Hood and Fort Carson to
support unit deployments. In theater, the 318th Transportation Agency
(Movement Control) utilized the Saudi Railway from the Arabian Gulf to
Riyadh as a segment of the western supply route to Iraq.
Throughout this period from the end of the Korean War through the turn of
the century, Army rail organization and doctrine remained based on the
World War II era. The basic battalion mission remained being able to operate
the equivalent of a hundred mile commercial railroad division. In the 1970s
as the Army was embracing containerization, Transportation School rail
lesson plans still focused on break bulk. This organizational structure and
doctrine no longer fit Army deployment requirements. By the time of the
Second Iraq War in 2003, use of Iraqi rail capability to support US troops was
TBD (To Be Determined) during the planning process.
In February 2003 when the possibility of utilizing the Iraqi Republic Railway
(IRR) network to support Coalition forces was made by LTC Robert Pelletier in
a 3d COSCOM pre-deployment planning exercise in Germany, LTC Pelletier
found himself directed by the COSCOM commander BG Charles Fletcher to
develop a plan. LTC Pelletier was an mobilized reservist on leave from his
civilian employment as a corridor manager in Union Pacific Railroad's Omaha
operation center. The plan called for utilizing the 757th TROB along with
internal expertise from available reservists with railroad experience to
assess, repair, manage and operate the Iraqi rail system. Initial and future
operational plans were drawn up as well as personnel and equipment

requirements were determined. In early March 2003, Operation Iraqi


Freedom's Coalition C4, MG Claude V. Christianson requested the 3d
COSCOM provide a Tiger Team to plan, organize and utilize the IRR to
support Coalition forces.
The Tiger Team, headed by LTC Pelletier, deployed to Arifjan, and then to
Umm Qasr in early-April to work with a team from the 757th TROB that was
attached to the 17th Port & Maritime Regiment (UK). After the rail line
between Basrah to Umm Qasr was opened, the Tiger Team moved to
Baghdad to begin operations and conduct an assessment of the entire IRR
system. Future military logistics nodes (railheads) were identified and
proposed, schedules were developed, a communications network was
established and preliminary security forces were stood up. Early on, the
deployment of the remaining elements of the 757th TROB was deleted from
any concept. These actions meant that rail support would be completely
dependent on working with the HN IRR management and its operating
capability.
By mid-May, train schedules and timetables were developed and coordinated
with the IRR. Compensation terms were negotiated and agreed to with the
IRR. Ultimately, railheads were established at the logistical bases of the
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the 4th Infantry Division, the 3rd
Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 3rd COSCOM, the 1st Marine Expeditionary
Force and British Forces in the Basra - Umm Qasr area. Additionally, the
Tiger Team became an integral part of the Ministry of Transportations rail
reconstruction and post war utilization of the rail network as part of nation
building. Utilization of the IRR capability proved to be a force multiplier by
moving 11,000 container during the first eight months of rail operations
reducing the overall need for military or contractor motor vehicles and
drivers.

Integral with working with HN rail capability is a strong interface with the
nation's political bureaucracy. By mid summer Mr. Gordon Mott joined the
Tiger Team as the Defense Department's senior rail expert. Following service
in the 714th Transportation Battalion at Fort Eustis in the late 1960s, Mr. Mott
held various managerial positions with the Burlington Northern Railroad, the
Federal Railroad Administration Corridor Project, and CSX Transportation.
Securing and directing US Department of Defense aid for the IRR proved
critical in increasing both short term IRR capability and reliability along with
cementing its long term role in nation building. Having on the ground
managers with US commercial railroad knowledge and experience first
utilized during the Civil War once again proved its worth in Iraq.

While the use of the IRR in the Second Iraq War was a limited portion of the
overall requirement, it was important for Army doctrine as it confirmed that
with proper planning HN rail infrastructure and operating capability remains
a viable alternative for supporting deployed troops. A similar conclusion was
reached in an Engineer Corps after action report on 1996 Bosnia operations.
That report concluded "a functioning rail line is an asset to any military force
concerned with supplying and reinforcing its forces." In early November
2004, three months after taking command of MTMC's successor Surface
Distribution and Deployment Command (SDDC), BG Charles Fletcher hosted
a Rail Summit Overview to assess current rail capabilities and future rail
requirements.
An initial Summit conclusion was that deployment of traditional operating rail
battalions under World War II doctrine was highly unlikely. The conference
did conclude that where available, the use of HN rail capabilities could be a
viable transportation alternative and an Army unit designed to facilitate this
did have a place in the force structure. This would mean a dramatic change
in the Army rail force structure from an operations orientation to one of
assessment, advisory, and contract administration. Based on the initial IRR
Tiger Team experience, various additional after action reports, and other
expert input; recommendations for the proposed organizations capabilities,
structure, and mission statement were developed. This would began a ten
year process to develop the rail force structure and doctrine needed to
support this mission under the Force Design Update (FDU) process.
While this Summit did come to some basic conclusions and
recommendations, progress in moving the concept through the FDU process
made little progress. With a pending Total Army Analysis (TAA) questioning
the need for any Army rail force structure, LTG Jack C. Stultz, Chief, Army
Reserve, championed maintaining an Army rail capability. As released in
December 2008, TAA10-15 maintained an Army rail capability but reduced its
authorized strength from over 500 to 150 positions.
With TAA allowances known, BG Edward F. Dorman III, the Army Chief of
Transportation, backed a rail advisory force structure to be known as a Rail
Support Center (RSC). By 2009 using lessons learned and after action
reports from the initial IRR Tiger Team, follow on teams to include one
headed by MAJ Scott Meyer in 2008, and numerous other experts; the Office
of Chief of Reserve Affairs (OCRA) of the Transportation School, CASCOM's
Force Development and other vested parties to include SDDC and 757th
Transportation Battalion began further evaluation and staffing of the RSC. It
would fall on the COL David T. Pollard, as the OCRA, to begin the process of
shepherding the RSC through the FDU. During the process he would be
succeeded by COL Larry McColpin and later COL Dan Rivers. Critical in this

process were positive responses by Central Command and Africa Command


to a CASCOM "White Paper" inquiry if such a capability was needed. The RSC
would be a USAR asset with an authorized strength of 150 (ultimately 184)
personnel. Its mission: "To provide rail network capacity and infrastructure
assessments, perform rail mode feasibility studies and advise on
employment of rail capabilities, coordinate rail and bridge safety
assessments, perform and assist with rail planning, coordinate use of host
HN or contracted rail assets. Perform contracting officer's representative
(COR) duties to oversee contracts and provide quality assurance of
contracts." In this process, the RSC would be renamed Expeditionary Rail
Center (ERC) in line with evolving Army designations.
In the fall of 2010 a new 75-km rail line was completed connecting
Afghanistan with the Uzbekistan rail network. The following October, the first
of four scheduled USAR Afghan Rail Advisory Teams (ARAT) was deployed to
help US forces and Afghan authorities effectively utilize this new rail
transportation capability. One of the ARAT's missions was to evaluate and
further refine the ERC concept. The ERC concept was approved by
Headquarters DA with the unit scheduled to be activated in September
2015.