FORT HOOD, Texas -"Greywolf" crewmen of the M1A2 main battle tank have proven over and over in combat the awesome lethality of man and machine. But the realities of today's battlefields have armor troops abandoning the battle cry of "Death before dismount."

"We are tankers," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Barrantes, a tank commander with Company C from Queens, N.Y., "we're used to riding around in tanks. Getting down on the ground, shooting your weapon, running, carrying a buddy and carrying a rucksack are a lot of what infantry does. But, learning new tactics is good training for everybody."

"This exercise is designed not only to give actual proficiency with the weapon and with your gear but also to give self confidence," said 2nd Lt. Jeff Gagliano, 3rd Platoon leader for Company D, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Cibolo, Texas.

The unit completed a two day stay at the range on Fort Hood July 1 with a timed stress shoot exercise designed to put physical stress on the body and mental stress on the mind, forcing the Soldier to think four or five steps ahead, Gagliano said.

The Soldier must then use physical exertion to follow through those steps, he continued.

3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment finished their field exercise with a bang.

"The Soldiers run 300 meters to get to their first point," Gagliano said, "where they load their weapon and then negotiate the course itself. By the time they get to their first targets they've sprinted almost 400 meters."

"Plus, it's about 98 degrees out right now," said Gagliano

"It's physical conditioning and at the same time it's giving the Soldiers the confidence to say 'Wow, I hit 25 out of 30 targets and ran the course in less than nine minutes... I can do this down range,'" Gagliano said.

"After they load their ammo, they run to the first obstacle; the car," said Barrantes. "Once they stop shooting, they run to a medical litter with a 200 pound mannequin that they drag for about 100 meters."

"At the next station they drop the litter, go to the kneeling position, and engage two more targets," Barrantes explained. "They then sprint another 100 meters where they engage four targets from the standing position behind a wall."

"Next, they pick up a 100 pound rucksack and run it to the next station where they shoot from a window, engaging six targets," he said. "Finally, they run to the point where they locked and loaded their weapons, which is where their time is recorded."

"Right now, morale is pretty high because everyone is having fun watching their buddies shoot. We had one of our best times today;" said Barrantes, "5 minutes 17 seconds with 30 out of 30 shots. That's a really good score, and everyone got pumped up seeing it."

Pfc. Kyle Johnson, a tank crewmember with Company C from Waterloo, Iowa was excited to perform the exercise.

"I'm motivated," he said, "I'm ready to get it done and see how far I can push myself. I know that if I was in Iraq and something like this happened, I'd want to be able to do my job and keep my platoon safe," said Johnson. "I'm really motivated and ready to go."
"With exercises like this one, we gain a lot of experience and learn how to be a good Soldier. I want to do my job, do my part in Iraq, and not be the one left behind," Johnson said. "Especially being a small guy, I've got a lot of pride in me, so I want to get out there to see what I can do so that I can be just as equal as everybody else.

"I'm going to be really tired when I finish," he said, "but I'm expecting to get a very good time and hit a lot of targets. More than that, I'm expecting a lot of respect out of it too."