By Staff Sgt. Ange Desinor (3rd ABCT, 4th ID)May 18, 2017
DRAGONKASERNEN, Denmark -- When a military mission comes up for an armored brigade combat team, there are support elements to ensure tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles are properly locked in and fully mission capable.
That's where Company B, an armament maintenance company with 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, comes in.
Armament systems maintainers like Chief Warrant Officer 2 Johnny Wilson keep the computer systems running that help armor crews with the essentials of combat, like smoothly navigating in all conditions and accurately putting rounds on targets
"Bravo Company Armament fixes 20 tank line-replaceable units, 26 Bradley LRUs -- they're basically the computers that run everything in our combat systems," said Wilson, "We fix everything from global positioning systems (GPS), to the commander's thermal viewers and gunner's primary sights, to ballistic solutions.
Keeping the electronic brains of an M1A2 Abrams main battle tank finely tuned is a big reason why Wilson and B Co. armament maintainers are at the Nordic Tank Challenge here this week, ensuring tank crews from Battle Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, are honed in as they compete against some of Europe's finest tankers in the annual competition.
This year, crews from 6 countries -- Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the United States -- are competing in the tank challenge hosted by the Danish 1st Armoured Battalion, Jutland Dragoons Regiment. The contest includes events that test maneuvering and weapons skills, ammunition loading, observation and target range estimation, road-wheel changes, navigation, and of course firing skills.
Many of these events play right into the systems that Wilson's team keeps running smoothly.
"We run them here to ensure they are fully mission capable," said Wilson. "If they are not, we can open them up, replace the internal components, put them back together, test them out, and send them back to the units."
Spc. Antonio Poston, a small arms repairman for B Co., is part of the Nordic Tank Challenge maintenance team. It's an opportunity that's allowing him to learn a different aspect of his trade by getting involved with tank maintenance.
"Although I'm still learning and cross-training, I am happy to be a part of the team. The stress level is high because this will be a really competitive tank competition. But I'm confident that our team will do great, and the maintainers are ready to go if we are needed during the competition," Poston said.
As part of his cross-training, Poston is learning that armament has several sides to it.
"One armament facet is fire control," said Wilson. "We are using a direct support electronic system test set. Another armament that we do is small-arms repair and artillery repair."
DSESTS is a diagnostic test set used to test, troubleshoot and repair ground combat LRUs. While this is much cheaper than replacing a unit, it can hamper readiness by taking a vehicle out of action during repairs.
"The brigade has virtually eliminated both problems -- cost and non-mission capable downtime -- by implementing our own internal repairable exchange program managed through the 123rd Brigade Support Battalion armament shop at Fort Bliss, Texas," said Wilson.
He estimates the process has saved the Army nearly $9 million in repair costs to armor LRUs since the brigade's arrival to Europe in January for a nine-month Atlantic Resolve rotation.
While this week's focus is the tank competition, the B Co. team fans out across eastern Europe to support 3/4 ABCT's combined-arms battalions. Operating as the regionally allocated armored brigade under U.S. Army Europe's Atlantic Resolve mission to deter aggression, units range from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south.
"We are a small section within the brigade," said Wilson. "We come out in small teams and support the unit. At times it gets very tedious, but we make it happen."
While the focus in Denmark has been keeping equipment in top condition, the 3/4 ABCT Soldiers also are mingling with their NATO counterparts participating in the competition.
"I've never been to Denmark before and we get to meet Soldiers from other countries," said Poston. "You get to learn a lot from them and realize that we all have a lot in common and we are truly a team. I'm also glad I am out here with my fellow 3rd ABCT Soldiers to represent America."