The U.S. Army Transportation Corps celebrates its 78th birthday today, and while the corps is based out of Fort Lee, Virginia, Fort Leonard Wood’s 58th Transportation Battalion will also observe its anniversary this weekend.
Lt. Col. Ramon Salas, 58th Trans. Bn. commander, said the battalion has strong ties to the corps in more than just their anniversary dates.
“This is where all your motor transport operators, or Military Occupational Specialty 88M, come through,” he said. “88Ms represent roughly 80 percent of the corps. So, a huge part of the corps really is represented out of Fort Leonard Wood.”
The 58th Trans. Bn. is the Army’s only Advanced Individual Training battalion for motor transport operators. Salas said as he reflects on the battalion’s 74th anniversary, he is reminded of its motto, “We set the standard.”
“This is really where Soldiers get their character and their way of thinking,” he said. “Their standards are going to be established here at this AIT. So, what it means for me is … whatever standards we’re giving these Soldiers, they’re going to take that with them for the rest of their Army careers. We strive to set the highest standards that we possibly can.”
And the special date has also given the unit time to reflect on its accomplishments of the past. On June 18, 2019, the battalion saw a shift in its command structure from the 3rd Chemical Brigade to the 2nd Transportation Brigade, 94th Training Division, based out of Fort Lee – a shift which required a “herculean effort,” according to Col. Sean Crockett, the 3rd Chem. Bde. commander at the time.
Following a recognition of the need for a single managing entity of Army transportation, the Department of War created the Transportation Corps July 31, 1942.
The 58th Transportation Battalion traces its origins back to the 27th Quartermaster Regiment, 2nd Battalion, which was formed at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, within the same week. After evolving into the 58th Quartermaster Battalion, participating in three World War II campaigns, and assisting occupying forces following the war, the battalion was deactivated in October 1945.
It was re-designated as the 58th Transportation Corps Truck Battalion Aug. 1, 1946, reactivated in November 1965 and deployed to Vietnam in March 1966. After being deactivated again in April 1972, it was reactivated once again in July 1986 to assume training missions at Fort Leonard Wood, where it has been ever since.
“Aug. 1 is really a day to remember for the 58th (Trans. Bn.),” Salas said. “That’s when it was really established as the 58th. For me, it provides me with the clarity of what our mission is – and that’s to make sure we are providing the most quality, the most proficient 88Ms, motor transporters, for the Army.”
In lieu of a traditional celebration, which has been canceled to follow social distancing protocols, Sgt. 1st Class Barron Graunke, 58th Trans. Bn. noncommissioned officer-in-charge of operations, urged fellow battalion members to think of the 58th Trans. Bn. Soldiers from years past.
“Everyone who has come before us has developed that standard and passed it down to us,” he said, referencing the battalion’s motto. “We wouldn’t be here in this profession doing this job with this skill set if they didn’t come here and learn what we needed to do and how to train. As such, we need to carry the torch while we’re here to further the training … for the next generation.”
Salas and Graunke said the anniversary also reminds them of the battalion’s broadening scope – it will gain four additional companies, allowing the training of separate but related military occupational specialties, within the next year. Salas said this growth will greatly strengthen its already-high significance to the corps in Virginia.
“The 58th (Trans. Bn.) is growing in responsibility and duty,” he said. “Right now, all we’re responsible for is 88M AIT. We’re going to have a huge relationship because all of the 88-series, all of the Transportation Corps MOSs will, at some point, come under the 58th.”
And as far as responsibilities go, the battalion takes on extra to help across the installation. According to Salas, units around Fort Leonard Wood sometimes request the 58th Trans. Bn. when they need assistance in logistics.
“From time to time, when they’re looking at moving supplies and resources around, a lot of people give us a call,” he said. “A great example was the (dining facilities). They had about 500 pallets of MREs to move. We supported them within the past month and a half. Although not an implied task for us, we’re always here to support the installation we call home.”