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Much ado about a dock at Letterkenny Army Depot

May 31, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The new rail dock at Letterkenny Army Depot might look like an oversized handicapped access ramp, but Army and government officials say its importance can be found below the concrete surface.

Reinforcements throughout the dock allow it to support a 90-ton M1 Abrams tank being loaded onto a train for transport.

"Without a loading dock, you have to use cranes to load from the side," said Col. Robert A. Swenson, depot commander.

The dock allows large equipment to be loaded faster and, in turn, gets the needed items to the troops in a more timely fashion.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the depot had missions that required a loading dock, and the work was done off post. Swenson hinted at an upcoming mission that could require frequent use of the dock but said he could not provide further details now.

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"We're within a day's rail of any of the seaports on the East Coast," he said.

Swenson, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, state Sen. Terry Punt and Gen. Benjamin F. Griffin each spoke briefly before a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday at the rail dock.

The dock, which has railroad tracks abutting one side, was funded through a $300,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

It became the first project involving state participation on a federal installation, according to Punt, R-Franklin.

The depot previously used a rail dock, but it was included in the portion of land declared as excess in the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decisions in 1995.

Punt said he's fighting for a $500,000 appropriation in next year's state budget to help spare Letterkenny Army Depot from further BRAC cuts.

"When we got to BRAC '95, we saw the importance Letterkenny has on our nation's defense and the local economy. ... Before this rail dock, what they built, they had to take the equipment outside the secured fence area. This will make a difference and will, I believe, ensure the future viability of operations," Punt said.

Griffin, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, referred to the rail dock as "65 tons that will allow us to do our job better."

"This is going to allow Letterkenny to ship out at a quicker pace the equipment they rehab and get it to our men and women (overseas)," said Shuster, R-Pa.

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