I was happy tonight to see some brief news footage of a convoy of National Guard truckers hauling food and water on HEMTT 985s through the flooded streets of New Orleans. The CNN newsreader described them as “amphibious,” which I guess they are, but it’s really just that the engine sits up high behind the cab and has a vertical stack. I never got to drive one — my gig was M931 5-ton tractor-trailers and M1070 HETs, the big 70-ton-capacity heavy-haulers with 40 wheels in 5 rows of 8 on the trailer — but I always wanted to, mostly out of curiosity about having two steerable front axles instead of one, since the HEMTTs had a total of four axles and eight big, big wheels, with 350-pound tires. And they never got stuck, as you could probably tell from the news footage. But the nice thing about the HEMTT — pronounced “hemmit”; it stands for Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck — is that it’s got what they call (if memory serves) a palletized load system: there’s a little crane right in front of the cargo area, and the cargo area is actually a detachable flatbed with a hook on the front end. So the trucks can come in, use the crane to hook and drop the pallet with the load, and turn right around for another run. It’s a lot faster than waiting for a forklift to unload you, which is a good thing: those Guard truckers are gonna be busy folks.
Anyway. Seeing the footage brought back some 24th Infantry Division trucking memories, and made me hope that maybe things in NOLA are starting to improve. And it also gave me a little non-dissertational nostalgia and a sense of wishing I was doing that. At least after the end of a mission (if you weren’t busy munching on dry Taster’s Choice from MREs to try and stay awake) you could look and say, “I hauled that load, and helped some people.” Right now, the academic work feels rather less fulfilling, comparatively speaking — but I’m looking forward to next week, when the fall teaching semester starts.