In dark BDUs under the stifling Oklahoma heat on Monday, dozens of Soldiers of WW2 loaded.
The work was for Operation Paragon Steel, an emergency drill that mobilizes a battalion’s entire fleet of vehicles for training.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Lt. Col. Frank Maxwell, battalion commander of the 18th Field Artillery. “I’ve been in the army for 19 years and this is only the second time I’ve done something like this.”
There were many moving parts in this ongoing exercise. Since the order was issued on Aug. 13, more than 300 soldiers have received medical and dental examinations, their families have been reminded of the resources available to them while their soldier was absent, and soldiers have had to ensure the correct number of vehicles was available to provide.
According to Horatio Taeau, logistics director at Fort Sill, the training mission was not influenced by outside events.
“These orders have been known for some time,” said Taeau.
Taeau’s employees, over 99 percent civilians, stood by the soldiers’ side when the vehicles were loaded onto the wagons.
“The biggest concern out here is safety,” said Taeau.
This safety included not only hard hats and reflective belts, but also frequent breaks in the water. Soldiers who got too hot dipped their bare arms in buckets of ice water, which helped them cool down.
“Some of the complications we encountered with this exercise are that some of our newer soldiers were unable to put our vehicles on trains to leave Fort Sill,” said Maxwell. “So we’re training some of these newer people who have never had that experience.”
One of these soldiers was Sgt. Veronica Lopez, a heavy cyclist.
“My job is to drive pretty much all military vehicles,” said Lopez. “It’s my first time doing the railhead, but I’ve learned a lot today.”
The railhead operations are part of a broader military exercise that Maxwell said is intended to “warn, march and mobilize” soldiers. The entire rail head operation should take 10 days; the soldiers are rated according to their ability to perform.
“The greatest thing that can be brought home from this exercise, based on the current conditions that occur around the world, is that we have the ability to be on every doorstep whenever we want or need to be”, Called Maxwell.