INDIAN MOUND, Tenn. (Jul 21, 2020) – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District in partnership with Fort Campbell Ky., recently completed a $2 million project to upgrade the Lock C location on the Cumberland River in Indian Mound, Tenn. Upon completion of the project, USACE handed over operational control to the post.
Standing on a mound of gravel in the sweltering July heat, an Army officer surveyed the operation. “We are the best equipped army in the world, and this is the first step to getting that equipment into the fight,” said Lt. Col. Laura Hutchinson, commander of the 526th Brigade Support Battalion.
To accomplish their wartime mission, the U.S. Army must “train like it fights” which means practicing loading and shipping your unit and its equipment to go to war. That constant state of readiness comes with a substantial training cost. Any method to reduce those costs comes with lasting benefits.
This collaboration has already paid for itself in a single use and it will result is millions of dollars of training money saved by the U.S. Army every year. The first unit to benefit from the improved lock are engineers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Campbell who are deploying over 1200 vehicles to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, La. Normally, their unit would deploy via rail, which would cost more than $5.9 million per training cycle. However, shipping via barge costs approximately $2 million resulting in a cost savings of over $3 million dollars on each rotation.
Hutchinson highlighted the teamwork between the Army and the CERES Barge Company; “Using the barge is super-efficient for us… it’s a pretty smooth process, the brigade has it down to a science, it has taken us two days to load when we had originally planned for four.” She continued: “The barge company we’ve been working with has been incredibly professional and super helpful, and we owe a lot of our success to them.”
Fort Campbell partnered with the Nashville District to upgrade Lock C in order to facilitate the movement of equipment by barge, according to Greg Bishop, project manager for the Nashville District.
“Over the last year we did a refurbishment of the Lock C barge site, and this is the first time we have used the lock since its refurbishment,” said Chief Warrant Officer Arnold L. Justice, construction engineer technician. “We’ve planned for changing water levels of the river by staging large amounts of gravel on site to adjust the loading ramp area as needed, it gives us flexibility,” Justice said.
During this mission the enemy was the weather. The July heat was unrelenting with sustained temperatures over 105 degrees F and 100% humidity. For safety reasons, soldiers were required to wear thick foam life jackets, making work conditions miserable. They had to work smart under the watchful eye of medics. The leadership ensured the soldiers took periodic water and shade breaks to avoid becoming hot weather casualties.
“The humidity is so thick here, it looks like fog” said one soldier as he wiped dripping sweat from his eyebrows. As soldiers do, they found humor in their efforts and routinely dumped cold water on each other heads resulting in smiles.
After the barges were loaded, they traveled overnight toward Kentucky Lake. The next morning, as the barge transited the Barkley Canal, excited overlook visitors watched, waved and took photos. One rugged-looking construction worker wearing a bright yellow vest in the crowd who identified himself only as “Mike” said: “That’s a can of whoop-ass right there – God bless America!”
About an hour later, the barges arrived at the USACE-operated Kentucky Lock on their way to the Ohio River. The towboat named “The City of Louisville” was given the courtesy right of way, as other commercial vessels waiting in line to transit the canal did their part for America by patently waiting just a bit longer so our Soldiers could get their equipment faster. The total voyage to Fort Polk is expected to last eight to twelve days depending on weather and other factors.
While the Army’s official song is “The Army Goes Rolling Along”, equipment from Fort Campbell will be sailing along for years to come.. As “Mike” commented about when he saw the barges, regardless of the travel mode, whenever you see that many Army vehicles go by, it makes you feel proud.
(The public can get more water safety information at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/WaterSafety.aspx and local lake information at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Locations/Lakes.aspx. The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)