By Staff Sgt. Ange DesinorApril 10, 2017
GRAFENWOEHR, TRAINING AREA, Germany - Soldiers from Battle Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment ("Iron Knights"), 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, rolled out the first woodland-tinged tanks to match their European operating environment under Atlantic Resolve.
The green M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, which emerged here April 4, are the first of the Iron Brigade's fleet of more than 400 combat vehicles that will receive the new look. That includes the tanks, M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M109A6 Paladin self-propelled artillery vehicles, among other equipment. Support vehicles will remain tan.
"The reason that we are painting our vehicles is to better blend in with the environment that we are operating in," said Capt. James England, the commander for Battle Co. "The tan tanks were there because we've operated in a desert environment for so long. Now that the terrain has changed, we are painting them green to blend in."
The opportunity to paint the vehicles took awhile for the units.
"A lot of the reason why they weren't done before was because of our high operational tempo leading up to our deployment to Europe," said England. "We basically had intense training event to intense training event, which led to little room for opportunities."
Prior to the 3rd ABCT, 4th Inf. Div., starting its nine-month deployment in January, the brigade spent nearly two months conducting combined-arms exercises at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and at its home station at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Onward movement of more than 2,000 pieces of rolling stock from Colorado also contributed to an intense schedule leading up to deployment. The Iron Brigade is the first of what will be continuous rotations of armored brigades bringing an entire ABCT equipment set from the United States to Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve, which is a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to collective security in central and eastern Europe.
In the first 100 days operating in eight European countries, the 3rd ABCT, 4th Inf. Div., has trained non-stop. Live-fire training occurs daily, with more than half a million rounds fired so far, and more than 53,000 miles traveled by Iron Brigade vehicles over an area of operations spanning the equivalent of the U.S. East Coast.
So the paint initially had to wait.
However, that didn't prevent Soldiers from camouflaging their tan equipment.
"We've always camouflaged the tanks," said England. "We use our camouflage nets, and that does a pretty good job concealing the tanks. We've always done things to mitigate the tan color on the tanks. Now it just goes a step further with the paint on the tanks."
Painting the tanks is a process but one that tank crews eagerly embraced.
"It's not every day a Soldier has the opportunity to paint an entire tank for the operation," said 1st Sgt. Ryan Dilling, the senior enlisted advisor for Battle Company. "For them to put their hard work and effort doing it, they get to see the personal end result, and they take pride in it."
Painting the brigade's entire fleet of combat vehicles will occur over the next few months, with battalions incrementally getting the new look as maintenance periods roll around.
England said painting a vehicle takes three days.
"You have to power wash the tanks down so that there's no debris and then they have to dry for 12 hours. To paint a tank, it takes 12 hours as well. The dry time takes another 12 hours to cure."
But the green will only stay as long as the equipment remains in Europe.
"The paint is a temporary paint," said England. "Once we go back home, we can pressure wash it off."