In 2010, the Chief of Transportation, Brigadier General
Edward F. Dorman III, identified a requirement
gap in the Army's Title 10 responsibility to support
the geographic combatant commands (COCOMs)
in effectively employing rail as a strategic multiplier
throughout full-spectrum operations (FSO). The gap
was significant because a functional analysis identified
effective rail planning, assessment, analysis, and
advisement as a geographic COCOM requirement.
Force Design Update
Host-nation support will undoubtedly become a larger
function of the geostrategic environment of the 21st
century. Since infrastructure and theater transportation
are inextricably connected to the broader geostrategic
environment, the current Chief of Transportation, Colonel
(P) Stephen E. Farmen, has focused on modernizing
Army rail capabilities that can exploit host-nation
resources within the transportation spectrum.
This effort has led to a force design update (FDU)
that will provide the rail capabilities required for the
contemporary operational environment. This FDU for
the existing Army rail structure is essential since it
has been more than 22 years since the last Army rail
FDU. The FDU's result is the Army Reserve (USAR)
Expeditionary Railway Center (ERC), which will be an
enduring Army rail capability for FSO. This FDU was
approved by the Army Training and Doctrine Command's
Army Capabilities Integration Center.
This new rail force structure will augment any COCOM's
efforts in planning and advising on the use of
host-nation railroads to expand and expedite distribution
within its area of responsibility. This new design
will provide full-spectrum capability in all phases of an
operation. In a period of diminishing military transportation
assets, we must look at doing more with less, and
using host-nation railroads is one way of rising to this
Expeditionary Railway Center Mission
The mission of the ERC will contrast significantly
with the mission of the 757th Transportation Battalion
(Railway). The ERC will—
- Provide rail network capability and infrastructure
- Perform rail mode feasibility studies and provide advice on the employment of rail capabilities.
- Perform and track railway rolling stock capability assessments, and provide an Engineer officer to facilitate railroad capability assessments and rebuild efforts.
- Coordinate rail and bridge safety assessments.
- Perform and assist with rail planning in support of military strategic and operational requirements.
- Perform functions as the primary advisers on railway operations, including collaborating with host-nation railway officials to improve the national railroad business model and support nation building.
- Coordinate use and deconfliction of host-nation or contracted rail assets.
- Perform contracting officer’s representative duties to oversee contracts and provide quality assurance.
- Provide command, control, and supervision for subordinate railway personnel.
The ERC is designed for the contemporary Army rail
planning and COCOM assistance mission. The ERC
can provide the expertise needed to aid in restoring and
developing railway systems in foreign nations in support
of national security. It also can directly improve
the present and future global security environment.
The nature of the global security environment is
increasingly complex. With it is the need to understand
globalization that is driven by rapid technological advances,
interdependent economies, and empowerment
of individuals. In this environment, we must recognize
the need to operate continuously within the human
terrain, where peace and stability are only sustained by
providing safety and security.
At the high and low ends of full-spectrum operations,
we must recognize the ERC's capabilities as the means
of providing enduring security for the local population
and the host nation. The ERC can simultaneously contribute
to military deployment and distribution velocity,
employment of a local population, and regional economic
|The railroad at the Hairatan Gate Border Crossing not only provides residents in northern Afghanistan a
chance for economic stability but also gives troops a means of getting cargo and equipment back home during
the future drawdown. (Photo by SFC Peter Mayers, 101st Airborne Division PAO)
The ERC will contribute to the Defense Distribution
Process Owner's (DDPO's) alternatives for sustaining
the velocity of deployment, distribution, and redeployment.
Understanding that conditions of anti-access or
area denial to theaters of operations are turbulent, the
DDPO must not depend on a single host nation for a
theater-sustaining line of communication (LOC). For
example, today the Northern Distribution Network has
multiple LOC options from origin to destination, and it
provides an alternative to the Pakistan ground LOC for
movement of military and other cargo into and out of
Army Rail Transformation
It has been evident since early in Operation Iraqi
Freedom that the existing Army rail capability must be
transformed to provide relevant support for the contemporary
conflict. In Iraq, the Army missed the opportunity
to maintain an Army rail planning and assessment
capability at interagency and various military headquarters
levels, along with an assessment, advisory, and
training assistance presence with the Iraqi Republican
Railroad. Coalition distribution and the nation of Iraq
could have benefited significantly from this investment.
Dave DeCarme, who served as the Department
of State (DOS) transportation attaché in Baghdad, Iraq,
from 2008 to 2009, made the following observation:
As part of civil/military coordination and cooperation
efforts in developing host-nation capacities,
the U.S. Army rail transformation, working with
U.S., coalition, and host-nation civilian elements,
has the potential for improving rail system operations
which in turn can be a significant contributor
to broader economic development.
First, the ERC offers a capability to see and plan for
rail LOCs, such as the Northern Distribution Network,
early in the geographic COCOM's planning effort.
Next, the ERC team can conduct peacetime military
engagements for country rail system restoration and
development. Finally, the ERC responsively deploys to
contribute to stability operations or combat operations
in the execution of a theater distribution plan and hostnation
rail system strategic development.
This capability is designed not only as a deterrent to
persistent conflict but also as a response for persistent
containment. The safety and security of an indigenous
population is a compelling and powerful force against
insurgency and radical political or religious groups.
How Railway Use Affects the Host Nation
Historically, a developing country's stability and economic
growth can be tied to a national railroad system that is regionally connected. Any use of a host-nation
railroad system for sustaining theater deployment,
distribution, and redeployment should be accomplished
with the intent of developing the nation's economic
engine and employing as much of the local population
as possible. In so doing, we improve individual security as well as national and regional stability. The strategic
objective is to deescalate hostilities as quickly as possible
and return to peace and stability operations. Then
the challenge is to continue to create conditions that
discourage a reescalation of hostilities.
The USAR ERC, if fully resourced, can facilitate
sustained international trade. It is at its best when employed
along with a joint, interagency, intergovernmental,
and multinational team. Understandably, the USAR
ERC contribution to this team provides the greatest expeditionary
capability that can be mobilized for deployment.
Under many conditions, the same responsiveness
is not likely with Government civilian employees, nor
is it prudent to assume that private sector contractors
will be readily available.
Benefits of the ERC to the Army
Early and continuous Military Surface Deployment
and Distribution Command (SDDC) Transportation
Engineering Agency analysis, coupled with ERC rail
expertise drawn from civilian-acquired skills and
integrated in COCOM planning efforts, can contribute
to a multimodal theater distribution program (TDP).
Deliberate incorporation of the rail mode into theater
engagement and TDPs provides a means of countering
inaccessibility and area-denial conditions.
This is not only smart business within the human dimension
of contemporary operations, but it also adds to
military equipment life-cycle savings and management
of theater military personnel caps (military truck drivers
and maintainers). An ERC will help contribute to
global security, which contributes to economic stability
in the United States and potentially better bottom-line
earnings for our U.S. partner rail companies.
The ERC operates with less than 200 Soldiers, making
this capability a tremendous bargain at the relative
cost of less than 2 truck companies. The bottom line
is that, in terms of the Army force structure, it is good
business to have the ERC capability resourced and
The Fiscal Year 2013 Command Plan Guidance,
which was published on 4 January 2011 by the Headquarters,
Department of the Army, provides the following
key structure guidance:
The Army's goal is to build a versatile mix of
tailorable and networked organizations, operating
on a rotational cycle, to provide a sustained flow of
trained and ready forces for full spectrum operations
and to hedge against unexpected contingencies,
at a sustainable tempo for our All-Volunteer
Force. The Army continues to experience tremendous
change. We remain at war and are balancing
the operating and generating forces across the
program while addressing the challenge to balance
requirements with affordability.
With these qualities in mind, the Army rail FDU is best sustained in the Army Reserve for affordability
and access to civilian-acquired skills through partnership
with the private railway industry.
Chief of Army Reserve Lieutenant General Jack C.
Stultz stated his vision: "An enduring operational force,
the Army Reserve remains the premier force provider
of America's Citizen-Soldiers for planned and emerging
missions at home and abroad. Enhanced by civilian
skills that serve as a force multiplier, we deliver vital
military capabilities essential to the total force."
The USAR ERC provides a great return on investment
for the United States. The Army Reserve will generate
a sustained flow of trained and ready Army rail
forces for FSO on a rotational cycle with five railway
planning and advisory teams, and it will do this at well
below the cost for the Active component to maintain
the structure. The ERC is a low-density capability with
a critical contribution to the Army's versatile mix of
modular organizations. The Army Reserve is ideally
suited to provide the ERC for expeditionary military
operations and international engagement activities,
such as nation building and security cooperation.
Employer Partnership Initiative
Sustaining this critical expeditionary and international
engagement capability can be accomplished in
part through effective stationing of the ERC planning
and advisory teams in cities where we find Class 1 railroad
headquarters or their interchange points. We will
continue to capitalize on the benefits of the employer
partnership of the Armed Forces, an initiative begun
by Lieutenant General Stultz. This partnership is a
win-win situation for servicemembers, employers, and
the Nation. Today, several U.S. railroads are employer
Our railroads are a fine example of the potential for
access to civilian-acquired skills. Employer partnership
of the Armed Forces offers a great opportunity for the
Army Reserve to take advantage of the rail expertise
offered by U.S. railroad employees. Many of these railroads actively seek to hire employees with military
experience who are a good fit for the 24-hours-a-day,
365-days-a-year culture of the railroad industry. Military
experience translates to management opportunities
with U.S. railroads.
Army Railway Planning and Advisory Team
The Army will benefit by capitalizing on the skillrich
characteristics of Army Reserve warrior citizens.
However, the Army Reserve must not run the ERC
without SDDC, the Army's "Global Surface Transportation
Experts." The SDDC mission is to "provide
expeditionary and sustained end-to-end deployment
and distribution to meet the Nation's objectives." The
SDDC vision is for its employees to be the "recognized
and trusted leaders in delivering innovative end-to-end
deployment and distribution excellence across the full
range of military operations." Rail is a significant component
and enabler of the SDDC mission and vision.
SDDC plays an important role in Army rail transformation
SDDC and the Army Reserve, in support of the U.S.
Central Command and the International Security Assistance
Force, have had an Army railway planning and
advisory team deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, since
October 2011. The team brings with it strong civilianacquired
management and operations experience from
CSX, the Sierra Northern Railroad Company, and the
Terminal Railroad Company.
In Afghanistan, this team is contributing to the following
- Acquire strong visibility on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s (GIROA’s) initiatives to start effective operations on the new Mazar-Hairatan Railway, which contributes to middle- to high-spectrum military operations through the improved velocity of military cargo movement into and out of Afghanistan.
- Work with the International Security Assistance Force, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, and the GIROA to develop a rail strategy for Afghanistan, focusing on sustained regional stability and economic development with a return to peacetime military engagement.
The team, working closely with the GIROA's Ministry
of Mines, will strategically link GIROA's national
rail system to coal and iron ore deposits. This is a strategy
with potential for sustained revenue streams and
regional economic development.
SDDC is also working with the U.S. Africa Command
to conduct peacetime military engagements
between Army Reserve Soldiers and representatives of
the Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF). In Uganda,
the U.S. Army rail team will assess and provide
advice on the UPDF unit's mission, force structure, typical operations, maintenance tasks, exercise participation,
and training programs at Lugazi University. The
team will discuss ways to assist the UPDF in developing
a concept of operations for a Ugandan railroad
battalion, along with all of the training, curriculum,
and tactics, techniques, and procedures that may be
required. This effort will continue with a visit by UPDF
officers to the United States in 2012 as part of continuing
to develop the military-to-military engagement.
The engagements in Afghanistan and Uganda can
be a springboard to overcoming the capabilities gap
discerned by Brigadier General Dorman in 2010. The
gap can be closed if the Army acts with foresight to use
the talent and synergy of the USAR ERC along with
SDDC, the Transportation Engineering Agency, and the
employer partnership of the Armed Forces initiative. If
integrated and used in a concerted and continuing way
to answer the rail advisory requirements of geographic
COCOMs, the gap remains closed. Rail support to Afghanistan
and Uganda can be the beginning of a wider
policy that promises significant benefits at an affordable
The Army should fully resource the ERC FDU.
SDDC and the Army Reserve should continue to assist
geographic COCOMs in fielding Army railway planning
and advisory teams until the ERC can be activated.
The Office of the Chief of Transportation and
the Sustainment Center of Excellence should continue
to collect and analyze current rail team efforts and
develop future doctrine and organization for the ERC.
Finally, when the ERC activates, it should be with a
stationing plan that facilitates close employer partnership
with the U.S. rail industry.