By Staff Sgt. Ange Desinor (3rd ABCT, 4th ID)May 10, 2017
GRAFENWOEHR TRAINING AREA, Germany - "USA! USA! USA!" the crowd of Soldiers chanted and clapped their hands as they watched M1A2 Abrams tanks fire off rounds.
Sixteen Soldiers in four tanks from 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team ("Iron Brigade"), 4th Infantry Division, are participating this week in the second annual Strong Europe Tank Challenge with five other North Atlantic Treaty Organization Allied and partner nations at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. But they're not alone as they run through 13 events.
Showing up each day along with the tank platoon from 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, has been about 100 "Iron Brigade" Soldiers, cheering on the American contingent. Brigade leaders have described the show of support as equivalent to ESPN's College GameDay, where university students enthusiastically show their school colors as an on-campus backdrop to the popular pre-game show.
"We have one of our sister battalions competing," said Staff Sgt. Ian Brown, a tank commander for Dakota Troop, 4th Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiment. "It's an honor to have our Soldiers out here competing at an international level with Europe's finest tank crews, so we're going to back them every step of the way."
The 3/4 ABCT team is competing against tank crews from Austria, France, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine. However, the U.S. Army Europe and German co-hosted tank challenge is as much about fostering stronger relationships among the armored community and sharing tactics, techniques and procedures, as it is about coming out on top of the standings.
Participating units have been tested on offensive and defensive operations, precision driving and obstacles courses, battle damage assessments, repairs on the fly, medical evacuations, calling for indirect fire support and more.
"All of it is timed. I think our Soldiers will win it all because they have been training since when we were back at Fort Carson, Colorado. We have some of the best Soldiers who are participating to represent the U.S," said Brown.
The 3/4 ABCT currently has about 1,600 Soldiers at Grafenwoehr training as part of USAREUR's Atlantic Resolve, so finding support to back the U.S. tank team hasn't been difficult. The unit kicked off a persistent, heel-to-toe presence of armored brigades rotating to Europe from the United States to build interoperability with NATO Allies while serving as a deterrent to aggression.
Whether they have armor backgrounds or not, 3/4 ABCT Soldiers have brought as much adrenalin to the events as the tank competitors.
"I am an infantryman and it just makes me feel great that our unit is participating in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge," said Spc. David Moroney, with Chosen Company, 1st Bn., 66th Armor Regt. "It's good to see our unit demonstrate our lethal abilities by competing in a prestigious competition. We support each other and motivate each other. This has been a phenomenal experience."
Strong Europe Tank Challenge provides USAREUR with an opportunity to establish, through the development of scoring and evaluation standards, a common understanding of tank tactics at the platoon level.. There are six different main battle tanks competing, including Austria's Leopard 2A4 variant, France's Leclerc, Germany's Leopard 2A6, Poland's Leopard 2A5, and Ukraine's T-64-BM.
"It's an honor and a privilege to compete with other countries," said Brown. "For all the groups to come together and have team building and cohesiveness is a great experience. Being able to see other countries come out shoot is pretty motivating. You get to see some of the things they do, and seeing that is reassuring because although we are competing, we are a force to be reckoned with when we combine our lethal power."
Col. Christopher Norrie, 3/4 ABCT commander, added: "We've been working for a year to get to this moment. All of the things that brought us here from across the Atlantic Ocean to this point, it's awe-inspiring to watch our team compete internationally ... and to see our Soldiers from across the brigade show such enthusiastic support."