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NEWS | March 25, 2021

No train, no gain: U.S. Army keeps the freight moving

By Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Are you a U.S. Army Soldier looking to transfer from active duty to the reserve? Why not work on the railroad?

Unbeknownst to many, the Army maintains a limited number of railway advisors, falling under the 88U military occupational specialty. The career field stems from a rich heritage of delivering war-winning resources.

“The Army railway mission goes back to the Civil War,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Teresa George, an instructor assigned to the 94th Training Division, 80th Training Command. “It was and still is today the most effective way to transport massive amounts of [personnel], munitions and supplies over land. Rail was used effectively until the end of the Korean War—and was even used in the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Railway advisors perform a host of tasks to ensure logistical success.

According to the Army’s recruitment website, these railway specialists supervise and operate the Army’s sophisticated diesel-electric locomotives that move vital supplies and equipment. They perform car coupling and uncoupling operations, send and receive signals, execute orders from signal towers, switches, and other personnel, and assure the safe hauling of cargo.

“Today’s Army railway mission is set up in an advisory role,” said George. “Information is collected, then interpreted to assess and advise on the feasibility of the use of rail in the continental U.S. and overseas. To include tasks like inspecting track conditions, and assisting a contacting officer on working with a foreign railroad.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Tyler Arant, a student training to become a railway advisor, said he chose the job looking for a “change of pace” from his former desk work. Previously a paralegal, Arant was surprised to find out the Army had slots for railroad work as he sifted through lists of jobs for his transition into the reserve.

Overall, he said he is pleased with his experience, and looks forward to working on the railroad when he finishes the class.

“The instructors are incredibly knowledgeable,” said Arant. “I did not expect to get this kind of knowledge and learn this much about … the impact we have on [the railway mission] both coastal and overseas.”

George said that despite technological advances and transformations in the Army logistics world, the railway mission will continue to remain relevant for years to come.

“Rail is and always will be the fastest, most efficient way to move supplies from one place to another over land,” she said. “It takes two Soldiers to move a train with a hundred railcars, when the same supplies would take hundreds of Soldiers. Once you get a train moving you can move a ton of freight approximately 492 miles on a single gallon of fuel. In addition, unlike transportation via truck or plane, you have a better eye on where your supplies are located.”

The railway advisor job is available only in the Army Reserve, with only 180 slots. Soldiers who are transitioning into the reserve and express interest in becoming railway advisors are encouraged to speak to their retentions non-commissioned officers or an Army recruiter.

The closest recruiter to JBLE-Eustis is Army Recruiting Station Denbigh, and can be contacted by dialing 757-890-6219.