It’s not a sign of pending martial law, folks.
Army vehicles moving by rail across the country is a normal part of training operations and equipment deliveries, but in times of national crises, the hyper-aware American public notices those movements more often and sometimes speculates as to its purpose.
A Twitter post shared Friday of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles moving by rail through a Chicago suburb garnered 2,000 retweets and more than 4,000 likes. The post said the vehicles were heading further east and asked if they were “coming soon?”
It was one of a number of Tweets showing military equipment on the move around the country.
By Saturday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman confirmed what others pointed out already.
The trucks were new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles being transported by Army Materiel Command from a factory in Oshkosh, Wisconsin to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“These deliveries by train to our bases nationwide are not infrequent and have nothing to do [with] COVID-19,” Hoffman said.
The Army regularly moves equipment by rail, including when its units are heading to combat training center rotations at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Rail is one of the most efficient ways to move heavy equipment over long distances.
The Army recently moved hundreds of pieces of equipment by rail to several U.S. seaports in order to prepare for a European exercise this spring called Defender 2020. That exercise was reduced in scope amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It was also announced in mid-February that Army Contracting Command placed an order for more than 1,200 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles from Oshkosh Corporation — the defense firm that also makes the M-ATVs commonly used by the U.S. military.
National Guard Bureau chief Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said Thursday that more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen in 27 states have been activated to support coronavirus response by governors.
That number is expected to double by the weekend and eventually reach the tens of thousands, Lengyel said, meaning the American public will likely see increased movements of military equipment and Guard personnel in the coming weeks to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.