May 29, 2007

3647th Maint. Co. teams up with state agencies for I-64 lane reversal exercise

By Capt. Dennis Rohler
529th CSSB Public Affairs

Soldiers of the 3647th Trans. Co. man one of the net barriers that alerted motorists of the Interstate closing during the lane reversal rehearsal May 20. (Photo by Capt. Dennis Rohler, 529th CSSB Public Affairs)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The Atlantic Hurricane season runs from June through November and, although it has been fairly quiet in Virginia for the past few years, the Commonwealth is not resting on the “hope” that this year will be the same. So on the May 20, Virginia exercised the Contra–flow plan on I-64 from 6-6:30 a.m.

The Virginia Army National Guard in concert with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and the Virginia State Police (VSP) took part in a rehearsal of what the state would actually do if the governor called for a reversal of the eastbound traffic on I-64 due to hurricane conditions.

If this were to happen gates would be lowered on the exit/entrance ramps which would turn all the eastbound lanes of I-64 into westbound lanes from exit 200, at the I-64/I-295 interchange, to exit 268 at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.

The exercise was a small-scale rehearsal and required only 52 Army National Guard personnel to man the exits. The real operation will require over five times that many Soldiers.

The 3647th Maintenance Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion supplied the forces for the exercise. The unit began planning months in advance by attending planning meetings with VDOT, VDEM and VSP.

After a very active annual training period involving Maintenance Contact Teams scattered throughout the entire state, the running of the crew serve ranges for the battalion, and ensuring that the 1710th Trans. Co. was ready and supported for its Jamestown mission, it was time for the 3647th to focus on its own state mission and its performance was flawless.

The unit decided on two separate assembly areas that would make the dispersion of troops more manageable along the 68 miles of interstate that they were responsible for.

With liaison teams from the battalion headquarters stationed at exit 200, the VDOT Smart Traffic Center, the Chesapeake State Police Headquarters and the Virginia Beach Armory, the unit arranged for use of the Sandston Armory for the western exits and the Hampton armory for the eastern exits.

The unit rallied on the staging areas on the May 19, where they had pre-staged vehicles and began the final preparations for the next morning. Movement began at 3:30 a.m. and all teams were in place by 4 a.m.

The Soldiers met up with their VDOT and VSP counterparts and established communications with the VSP Command Post at exit 200. The gates were lowered from 6-6:30 a.m. and although no westbound traffic was actually sent on the eastbound lanes, the eastbound lanes were closed and the VSP rehearsed actions on clearing the interstate to ensure that no traffic was still eastbound prior to actual routing of traffic westbound in the eastbound lanes.

The Soldiers of the 3647th performed this mission in the same professional manner that they displayed their entire annual training period. The leadership of the unit thoroughly planned and rehearsed their role and their Soldiers understood and were motivated about the mission.

Capt. James Elliott, commander of the 3647th Maint. Co., ensured that every Soldier understood the importance of this rehearsal. This rehearsal is only a small part of the bigger event. The 3647th is now the most experienced unit on this type of mission and will lead in the planning process for the actual operation.

The 529th CSSB has been charged with the lane reversal mission and the 3647th will be the lead unit in training the rest of the battalion’s Soldiers on how to be successful. The unit hopes that conditions never get so bad that the Virginia Army National Guard will have to exercise a real lane reversal. But in the event that it does, the unit will be prepared because of the motivation and dedication to duty of its most valuable asset – its Soldiers.

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