BERGEN-HOHNE TRAINING AREA, Germany -- Soldiers with the 527 Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, participated in an Abrams Reactive Armor Tile, or M19, installation training at Bergen-Hohne Training Area, Germany, July 10, 2020.
The unique-two-phase training exercise saw military police rapidly install the ARAT system to defend the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank from rocket propelled grenades and similar munitions. Following the tile installation, the Abrams were loaded on M1300 Enhanced Heavy Equipment Transport Systems, a tank transport vehicle capable of traversing German roads.
“This is really different because this would normally be an Abrams crew doing the installation,” said Charles Merten, senior command representative for the 405th Army Field Support Brigade.
According to Merten, the 527th Soldiers were the first military police company to perform the installation process.
“The tile reacts when it’s hit by an RPG,” Merten said. “It will react and blow the explosion away from the tank -- protecting the tank and the crew. It’s useful because it can keep the vehicle tracks on, and the vehicle and its crew in the mission.”
A four person crew slides the tiles into place on a pre-installed rack on the side of the Abrams. A total of 62 tiles, 31 on either flank, are put into place by the team. Each tile weighs 65 pounds which adds another two tons of weight to the already 67 ton Abrams. The MPs took turns working as a four person crew installing then uninstalling the ARAT system on four Abrams.
“I’m always so absolutely impressed with my Soldier’s efforts,” said Col. Timothy J. MacDonald, commander of the 18th Military Police Brigade.
“While we are military policemen, we’re always Soldiers first, so we do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission,” he said. “A lot of effort goes into planning events like this and it takes a team of teams to put it all together.
“Of course the weather doesn’t ever cooperate,” said MacDonald who laughed as it began to rain heavily. “But that makes safety paramount, and we always have to take care of most precious assets -- which are our soldiers.”
After installing the ARAT system, maintenance crews took the newly equipped tanks on a test drive to familiarize themselves with the additional width and weight of the system. Adding to the already innovative training was the implementation of a new vehicle transport system, the M1300 EHET.
“This is very different,” said Staff Sgt. Delio Velazquez, a squad leader and master driver at Bergen Hohne Training Area. “German roads and bridges are very narrow so we have to be careful to find the proper routes to drive these.
“This is the second time these new EHETs are coming out and using the tracks,” said Velazquez. “The old ones were too wide and too heavy.”
After concluding the loading operations a Geran crew weighed the vehicles to ensure they met specifications.
“Once we got everyone on site, things went off smoothly,” said MacDonald after the weigh-in was complete. “I’m very, very proud of this team!”
“We remain here, we remain ready and we’re postured in Europe,” MacDonald said. “This is a small piece of Defender 20 Plus, but it's important. It takes all these smaller exercises to come together to give a greater understanding of our posture and we’re happy to play our part.”
DEFENDER-Europe 20 was designed as a deployment exercise to build strategic readiness in support of the U.S. National Defense Strategy and NATO deterrence objectives. In response to COVID-19, DEFENDER-Europe 20 was modified in size and scope. Phase I of the modified DEFENDER-Europe 20 was linked exercise Allied Spirit, which took place at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, June 5-19, with approximately 6,000 U.S. and Polish Soldiers. In Phase II of the modified DEFENDER-Europe 20, a U.S.-based combined arms battalion will conduct an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise to Europe July 14 – Aug. 22. For more information about DEFENDER-Europe, visit www.eur.army.mil/DefenderEurope.