A 14 February 2009 release about rail services to Camp Taji, by Sgt. Mike Brantley of the 10th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs Office.
Railroad Operations Come Back to Camp Taji
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – The rusted steel railroad tracks lay in wait. Two concrete barriers that had stood in front of a black metal gate for more than five years sat off to the right as security forces opened the gate leading to Main Supply Route Tampa and to the first train to enter Camp Taji since 2004.
A rail master summoned the oncoming train, both arms raised. The train began slowly moving across Tampa and forward through the gate and onto post.
Once the engine, pulling 20 empty railroad cars, entered the post, the gates were secured and the barriers replaced, thus beginning railroad operations here again.
Maj. Scott Meyer, Strategic Mobility – Iraqi Railroad, or IRR, Program Manager with the Multi-National Force – Iraq, said this was the first time in five years that empty containers were loaded for coalition forces on the Iraqi Public Railroad.
“This will continue the circle of commodities flowing into Iraq,” the Naugatuck, Conn., native said, referring to the train’s two-day trek to the port city of Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf. “The proof of principle shows it’s a safe, efficient and cheaper manner and takes Soldiers off of the road.”
The train engine pulled the cars forward, each holding two containers. Once the cars were loaded, the engine unhooked, pulled forward, switched tracks and came around to what was the rear of the railroad cars to hook up to take the cars off post to the Taji Station for further movement south and onward to Kuwait.
The train conductor, Mohammed, said that he is proud to serve his country and to help rebuild it. He said that he has worked in the railroad business since 1994.
The 10th Sustainment Brigade has the lead to synchronize all rail efforts at Taji, said Maj. Peter Vien, 10th Sustainment Brigade engineer, and Orlando, Fla., native. “In addition, we also worked with the IRR in the last several months to repair the damaged rail spur so that it can accommodate limited train operations.” He said it was a successful mission since “we achieved the mission end state – to be able to load 40 empty containers on the train and ship them out of Camp Taji in four hours.”
Meyer added that a follow-on mission will continue this operation and bring cargo from Umm Qasr to Taji as an efficient means of transport, and will give the Iraqis more pride and shows they can move the cargo and validates the transportation corridor between Umm Qasr and Taji. “The IRR is the heart and soul of inland distribution with Iraq being a land bridge.”
Vien said that this will directly impact on coalition forces’ abilities to retrograde equipment and material in the future. It also indicates the possibility of expansion of rail operations to other parts of Iraq, he said. “This will revitalize the IRR and will have direct impact on the Iraqi economy.”