Oklahoma National Guard moving trucks, equipment by barge

Saturday, May 25th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The Oklahoma National Guard has loaded 10 barges with 120 vehicles for an 800-mile journey by waterway.

The 45th Infantry Brigade's trip is the largest military shipment on waterway since the Oklahoma section of the navigation channel opened in the early 1970s.

The barges loaded with Humvees and 2-ton trucks at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa will travel to Alexandria, La., within about one week. From there, they will unload and drive to Fort Polk.

The barges will be one of four tows used for June maneuvers at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk.

Oklahoma guardsmen loaded a second tow, including 29 barges, at Camp Gruber. Two other tows will originate in Chicago and Chester, Ill., carrying vehicles of the Illinois National Guard.

Greg Wood, project manager for the Canal Barge Co. Inc. of New Orleans, said 77 barges will be used in the four tows.

``This is the largest military move we have made to date,'' he said.

The barge company has been making military movements since 1982, and has carried elements of the famed 101st Airborne Division, the ``Screaming Eagles.''

The vehicles are carried on barges because of the low cost and because the vehicles can be carried fully loaded. On rail cars, they would have to be emptied, Wood said.

Lt. Col. Joe Worley, an Oklahoma Guard spokesman, said about 6,500 servicemen from Army and Air Force Reserve and active duty forces in 16 states will participate in the June exercise. Most of them _ about 4,000 _ will be from the Oklahoma Guard.

This shipment will go out the Arkansas River into the lower Mississippi and then up the Red River to Fort Polk, about 45 miles southwest of Alexandria, La.