FORT BENNING, Ga., (May 29, 2013) -- Students in the Armor Basic Officer Leadership Course got a chance to explore history through their training recently -- figuratively and literally.

A group of newly commissioned second lieutenants in ABOLC Class 13-004 visited the National Armor and Cavalry Museum on Sand Hill to learn about the vehicles in the museum's collection. The museum houses about 400 American and foreign vehicles ranging from 80-ton tanks to a World War II-era Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It is the world's second-largest collection of Armor artifacts and covers the history of Armor and Cavalry from World War I to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The visit was an opportunity for the students to get an up-close look at some of the vehicles and history they have been learning about in classroom instruction, said Robert Cameron, Armor branch historian.

"In the classroom, they get an overview of the Armor branch and its evolution with key themes that resonate with what they're doing today," he said. "By coming here, they can actually see the platforms and the links to the broad themes we talked about."

The students received tours of part of the museum's collection, led by Cameron and museum director Len Dyer.

They talked to the lieutenants about the history behind some of the tanks, their evolution, and how they were used on the battlefield. The students were able to see and touch the tanks and even step inside them.

"A lot of the vehicles we have in the collection are still being used by second- and third-world countries, so it's very possible for an American tanker today to run into an older vehicle," Dyer said. "So the more information he knows about how that vehicle is capable of fighting, he'll have a better ability to deal with it."

Giving the new Armor officers a chance to see the museum's tanks in person is important because it gives them a much better idea of how they work, Dyer said.

"It's a lot harder to teach someone how to use a hammer if they don't know what a hammer looks like," he said.

2nd Lt. Evan Ludwig said he wished the class could have spent even more time at the museum.

"This was the first time we'd ever seen these vehicles up close," he said. "It tied in really well to everything we've been doing in the classroom."

2nd Lt. Seth Graves said he found the visit very informative.

"It's important to study history because as they say, if you don't know history, you're bound to repeat it," he said.

Using the museum for training purposes isn't limited to just the Armor branch. Students from a wide variety of courses on Fort Benning regularly tour the museum, and Dyer said he encourages all troops to come visit.

"We train not only Armor and Cavalry guys but also Infantry guys," Dyer said. "With the knowledge base the staff has, we can talk about artillery, aviation, a lot of areas we can touch on for the combined arms element of how tanks are fighting on the battlefield."