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Minnesota National Guard
Soldier ingenuity leads to breakthrough in rail operations

Rail operations CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - On a brisk November morning at the Camp Ripley Training Center railhead, Soldiers from both the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team and 347th Regional Support Group were busy training on skills needed to pull off the largest rail operation in Minnesota in nearly 10 years.

On one end of the training area, Soldiers were directing Abrams tanks and Humvees up a ramp and onto empty railcars. Using heavy chains and tie down equipment, the vehicles were then secured to the flatbed cars.

On the other end of the training area, Soldiers were testing a breakthrough process to significantly reduce the amount of time needed to get that equipment load ready.

Joined by representatives from Intercomp, a company providing advanced weighing systems, unit movement officers practiced on the Deployable Automated Cargo Measurement System - a portable system that records a vehicle's dimensions, axle weight, total weight and center of balance in a matter of seconds.

"The DACMS is an automated system that profiles and weighs a vehicle," said Eric Larson, Intercomp's Military Accounts Manager. "The system takes the manual element out of the process, reducing error and saving time."

"We used to manually measure everything, with our digital scales we have to place them under each axil," said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Morse, transportation NCO with 1/34th ABCT. "We would then manually enter that information into the Army's Transportation Coordinator's Automated Information for Movement System, which provides the unit movement planners the data needed to come up with the load plan."

Despite the advantages of using Intercomp's "in-motion" scale, limitations remained. Essentially, the DACMS and the Army systems couldn't "talk" - meaning all of the data measured by the DACMS had to be manually uploaded into the Army system.

"Intercomp had been trying to integrate the systems, with efforts going back 8 years," said Larson. "The system works with the Air Force and Marines' load panning systems, but we weren't able to get it done with the Army."

Thanks to the efforts of Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Mellon, the 1st ABCT's mobility officer, that all changed. After the initial sit down with Intercomp - which focused on the newly-sourced portable MH-Series wheel load scales, which also play a vital role weighing vehicles for deployment - the integration issue was first identified. It was at this point Mellon went to work to find a solution for both portable scales and the Intercomp "In-motion" scale system.

"Through our partnership, just weeks after we first fielded the new scales, we began working with their IT programmers to find a solution," Mellon said.

"[Mellon] was able to find a way to export the data from our DACMS into a format that could be read by the Army system," said Larson. "It's going to be a big deal. This is the first time we've been able to do this, and we are proving it here. When it works here, it will go Army wide."

"Now, when we prepare our equipment to load onto railcars in May, we will be able to get a battalions' inventory of vehicles weighed in 4 to 5 hours," Mellon said. "We're talking hours to get a job done instead of days."

The efficiency of the system, working in concert with the hands-on tie-down skills of Soldiers securing the equipment to railcars, will be key when the Soldiers come together for nine days in May 2016 to load an estimated 1,300 pieces of equipment onto more than 450 railcars, a massive logistical operation that is unprecedented in Minnesota.

December 7, 2015
by Staff Sgt. Patrick Loch
1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs



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