Getting things moving - vehicles on the way for enhanced Forward Presence

Grafenwöhr, Bavaria, 2 February 2017

At the Grafenwöhr training area, the vehicles stand in a long row by the loading ramp. Everything that happens in the next few hours will be coordinated by one man, the loading officer. He’s the man giving the orders. When are which vehicles driven onto the freight wagons? All of that is decided by this officer. The first delivery of equipment is already expected in Lithuania. Bild vergrößern

The advance party of the German-led multinational battlegroup has already been on location for several days. The 20‑odd soldiers of 122 Mechanised Infantry Battalion from Oberviechtach are standing by to take receipt of the vehicles.

Loading gets under way

Over 40 will travel to Lithuania with the first shipment. Lieutenant Stefan H.’s team has been preparing for this day for weeks. The lightest vehicles take the end-loading ramp onto the flat wagon first, so Wolf and Transporter jeeps and flatbed lorries lead the way. They are followed by heavy freight vehicles with trailers, such as command vehicles pulling power generators, and armoured troop carriers bring up the rear.

Lighter items loaded before heavier ones

“One of the challenges here is ensuring that the vehicles are loaded in order of weight, and that they are lined up in that order from the word ‘go’ so that we don’t need to rearrange things later and needlessly delay the whole operation. Our planning takes all that into account, of course,” said Lieutenant Stefan H., adding that he was also seeing the positive effects of the team’s intensive practising, as everything was going as planned without major delays. Bild vergrößern

Everything secured

To load each vehicle, a ground guide signals the driver, who then carefully manoeuvres his vehicle into the exact position on the Deutsche Bahn flat wagon to which he has been directed. Next, the chocking and chaining parties do their bit to make sure the vehicles are no longer able to move on the wagon, using metal chocks to keep them in place. The heavier vehicles are further secured using taut chains.

Support from the far North

The team has support from the Bundeswehr Logistics Centre in Wilhelmshaven. The four sergeants are specialists when it comes to loading and have placed their experience and useful tips at the team’s disposal. According to their own calculations, they handle around 15 rail shipments a year. They have even been operating in four different countries over the last few weeks. Part of their job is to establish the order of vehicles in liaison with the loading officer.

Precautions have also been taken in case things go wrong: the last item loaded was today’s only tracked vehicle, a Büffel recovery tank. As the loading officer explained, “We need to have some means of recovery on hand in case a vehicle doesn’t end up where it was supposed to be.” But there is no need for the Büffel’s help today. All the drivers manage the less than routine challenge with aplomb.

Awaiting the equipment in Lithuania

With its 300‑odd servicemen and -women, 122 Mechanised Infantry Battalion is providing the majority of the German component in the multinational battlegroup in Lithuania. The battlegroup is gradually taking shape as this first shipment of equipment is delivered. According to Lars Obst, the deputy battalion commander, more rail shipments will follow over the coming weeks. He said the objective was to have all equipment and personnel in place in Rukla, Lithuania, by the end of February.

The first rail shipment will take around four days to travel from Grafenwöhr, through Poland, to Lithuania, or more precisely to Šeštokai. It will be taken the remaining 100km to the battlegroup by road. Bild vergrößern Bild vergrößern Bild vergrößern Bild vergrößern Bild vergrößern

This is a translation of an article by Joachim Sanse published on