Story by Lt. Col. Cindi King
The South Carolina Army National Guard’s 4-118th Combined Arms Battalion, 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, is preparing for a training exercise called, “Exportable Combat Training” (XCTC) at Fort Bliss, Texas.
More than 200 wheeled and tracked vehicles from the 4-118th CAB are being moved and staged for transport via railcars along Garners Ferry Road, Leesburg Road and Assembly Street near the State Fairgrounds in Columbia, South Carolina, throughout the weeks of July 9 and July 16, 2018.
“Our more than 500 Soldiers will be joining National Guard Soldiers from West Virginia and North Carolina for the XCTC in August,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joe Bulwinkle, commander of the 4-118th CAB. “This event is important for us as we prepare for our evaluation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California in 2019.”
As the vehicles were being loaded on the railcars, passers-by would wave or honk their vehicle horns to show support. Many stopped to ask where the equipment was heading.
“Things have been going very well with our Soldiers working with the contractors at the railhead,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Bowens, the officer-in-charge and executive officer in Cobra-Company, 4-118th CAB. “There is a tremendous amount of experience between our NCOs and with the contractors. They are guiding our Soldiers on what to do and making things happen.”
There were approximately 30 Soldiers working to drive and secure the vehicles on the railcars, which included M1 Abrams, M2 Bradleys, along with heavy trucks. According to Bowens, the most challenging part was driving the larger track vehicles onto the railcars.
“Being out in the heat all day while we load these vehicles is actually good preparation for us to be in the summer Texas heat,” said Bowens. “Morale for our troops is very good. We have a top notch group of NCOs who enjoy looking out for the Soldiers and making them feel a part of the family.”
Once the last vehicle is loaded, the rail cars will depart for Fort Bliss and are expected to be on station when the Soldiers arrive to begin the month-long XCTC in early August.