Third ID Gear Begins Arriving - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/23/06

Third ID Gear Begins Arriving

A major operation is underway at the Georgia Ports Authority. Thousands of Third Infantry Division troops have returned home since December, and now their equipment is making the trip back.

The USNS Red Cloud is the first of four ships bringing back the gear. And as of this evening, they're not even halfway through unloading her. Soldiers started unpacking yesterday morning and they're working around the clock to get the Third ID and its equipment back together again.

One by one, the Army and the Georgia Ports Authority are moving each piece of equipment, vehicle and helicopter off the Red Cloud.

"It's not really hard," said Sgt. 1st Class Alfredo Carino, with 743rd Transportation Company. "You've just got to take your time and be patient."

It took 21 days to make the journey from Kuwait. Now comes the challenge of unloading more than 1,400 pieces of equipment, very carefully.

"You've got to make sure the vessel is not listing from one side to the other, so you have to make sure when you take the pieces off, the vessel is balanced," noted Sgt. 1st Class Carino.

Dozens of vehicles, gassed up and ready to go, wait bumper to bumper. Members of the 416th Transportation Company will convoy them--30 at a time--back to Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart.

Not everything can be driven back. Aviation maintenance crews are reattaching the blades and tail rotors on more than 60 of the brigade's helicopters. It takes only an hour or two to refit each Chinook, Blackhawk and Apache for, thankfully, a very short flight home.

"We feel very fortunate that we have the Port of Savannah within almost a stone's throw distance of Hunter Army Airfield," Chief Warrant Officer Mike Fry, an Aviation Brigade maintenance officer, told us. "It gives us the great advantage. We say it's in our backyard."

Crews made use of every available space. While they still have more equipment coming on the next three ships, every helicopter is back. And that means it's time to go back to work.

"We enjoyed the month we had before they got here," said Fry. "Now it's back on us to do what we do on an everyday basis."

Six military units are unloading the Third Infantry Division's equipment from the Red Cloud, but many other agencies are providing the security and helping with the job. They expect to finish unloading this first ship by Saturday. 

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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