MSG Half-Mast just returned from Scott AFB, IL, where he met with Mr. Michael Bartosiak, the Deployability Engineering Branch Chief for the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) Transportation Engineering Agency (TEA). SDDC is a major subordinate command of the US Army Materiel Command and the Army Service Component Command to the US Transportation Command.
Mr. Bartosiak completed a mechanical engineering degree with a minor in business administration from the University of Florida. In 1997, he went to work with the Defense Ammunition Center (DAC) in Savanna, IL. During his eleven years with DAC, he used military-standard testing to test and validate ammunition loading and unloading procedures and worked with tactical vehicle loads for rail impact validation. He’s held various positions of responsibility along the way. In 2008, Mr. Bartosiak went to work for the SDDC. In 2010, he became the DoD representative on the Association of American Railroad’s Open Top Loading Rules Committee and, in 2020, he became the Deployability Engineering Branch Chief.
Photos courtesy of SDDC Public and Congressional Affairs
(photo on right shows an M1 Abrams transported by OCONUS railcar)
Mr. Bartosiak, thank you for taking the time to meet for this interview. Would you describe the mission of the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) Transportation Engineering Agency (TEA) and the various ways your agency contributes to Army readiness?
Mr. Bartosiak: Sure, TEA works to improve the global deployability and sustainment of the US Armed Forces by providing the Department of Defense with transportation engineering, policy guidance, research and analytical expertise to support the National Military Strategy.
The Deployability Engineering Branch works with the acquisition community during development to manage transportability issues. Many wheeled or tracked vehicles and oversized or overweight items are constrained to transportation assets such as railcars, aircraft and ships. We collaborate with developers to ensure system designs allow efficient and safe movement through the Defense Transportation System.
The lift and tiedown provisions of systems are essential to deploying effectively. We’re the proponent for military standard (MIL-STD) -209 that specifies the size, strength and testing requirements for these provisions. We’re also the proponent for MIL-STD-1366 that defines the limits of the Defense Transportation System. These give the designers the information they need to make transportable vehicles and equipment.
We also monitor transportability testing and, if all of a given system’s transportation requirements are satisfied, we generate a Transportability Approval that supports the fielding and materiel release decision.
Bottom line: if a system can’t deploy quickly, it hampers the Army’s ability to win. To use a sports analogy, all of our games are ‘away’ games.
How extensive is the use of rail to move Army vehicles and equipment and what are some aspects of rail operations that would benefit from greater understanding by Soldiers and leaders?
Rail is the primary means by which heavy equipment and most rolling stock moves from home station to strategic ports of embarkation. Trucking equipment is also necessary to get equipment to the railheads and sometimes is the primary means of getting to the port of embarkation. However, rail has an advantage because it retains unit integrity and saves additional time and money by avoiding highway permits. Permits are required for most military vehicles from each state or host nation to operate on their roads. That’s because of their size and weight.
The Army relies heavily on commercial railroads to move our equipment. One of their requirements is that our systems must pass a rail impact test. That’s done as part of our Transportability Approval process before systems are fielded. After the rail impact testing, we work with the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Open Top Loading Rules (OTLRs) Committee. We present them the rail impact test results and if there’s no existing guidance that covers the system, we draft a loading figure that explains how the system was successfully restrained to the railcar in order to pass testing. Military equipment has a specific section in the OTLRs (Section 6) and the full OTLRs can be accessed and downloaded for no charge from https://my.aar.org/otlr
. Units can use these OTLRs to ensure their vehicles and equipment are properly secured to railcars before movement.
What are the major differences or unique challenges that units face deploying by rail systems in CONUS versus OCONUS?
Mr. Bartosiak: The rail environment is very different between CONUS and overseas theaters. For example, the European rail environment is actually less stringent. They build trains by linking the individual railcars together manually rather than using gravity to send strings of cars down a track to assemble a train. Also, each railcar has a bumper on each of the four corners that limits the amount of slack action between railcars when a train starts or stops. They also operate trains with fewer railcars than we do in CONUS. Not only are the railcars smaller but so, too, are the trains.
A vivid example of the difference between CONUS and OCONUS requirements is moving an Abrams tank by rail. In Europe, chocks and some lateral restraint is all that’s required. In CONUS rail, an Abrams tank has a specific OTLRs loading figure that requires sixteen (16) rail chains to meet the AAR’s requirements.
One big challenge is when units rotate from Europe back to CONUS. They can load and secure equipment in Europe for rail transport in ways that don’t work for CONUS rail. The returning units load their equipment on European railcars and they will get loaded on ship in that same configuration. When they’re downloaded at CONUS ports, the equipment may need to be reconfigured to meet CONUS standards. Smart units will secure their equipment, while in Europe, to meet CONUS rail requirements.
Would you explain to Soldiers why the Association of American Railroads (AAR) has all these loading rules and specific loading figures for military equipment?
It’s important to secure loads properly from the start. That’s why the AAR supplies the OTLRs. Additionally, TEA has tiedown instructions for rail movements that supplement the OTLRs for military equipment. Anyone with a CAC can download a copy of that from our website HERE
Unlike highway loads, loads moving by rail don’t have the option to pull over to the side of the road and quickly adjust or fix a load. We’ve seen improperly secured turrets hit trains on adjacent rail lines, equipment rotate or slide out to damage side signals, counter weights on cranes scrape the inside of tunnels and improperly secured vehicle doors cause many issues.
When a load moves by rail and something needs adjustment, it’s a major impact to the commercial railroads because they have to sideline the train and employ their mechanical department to adjust the load. It’s common for them to be unfamiliar with how to adjust military loads. Then it takes even more time to get the correct guidance.
Mr. Bartosiak, we thank you for the job you do. Do you have any additional thoughts or insights you’d like to pass along to PS readers?
Mr. Bartosiak: With rail transport, one of the most common issues that arises with wheeled vehicles is how to handle flat tires. Flat tires can actually catch fire, due to the inner layers of the tires rubbing during rail vibration. If tires go flat during the train movement, rail chains will go slack and cause the load to become unsecured. So, it’s always best to fix or replace flat tires prior to rail transport. That’s also why you cannot deflate tires to meet rail clearances.
Local railroads and TEA are here to help if you’ve got any questions about how to secure vehicles properly for rail transport. If you have rail tiedown questions, you can reach out to TEA’s Deployability Engineering team at:
Rail impact test