Troopers assigned to Hawg Company, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) placed third in the 2022 Sullivan Cup competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, held April 24 to May 6th. The Sullivan Cup, named in honor of General (Ret.) Gordon R. Sullivan, is a biennial competition hosted by the Commandant of the United States Army Armor School.
The competition consists of physically and mentally challenging events while evaluating the platform operation, sustainment, and lethality of competing crews. This year’s event featured participants utilizing the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle for the first time in competition history, along with M1A2 Abrams main battle tank crews from across the U.S. Army.
The 2022 Sullivan Cup commenced on April 24 with preliminary tasks such as vehicle issue, proficiency skills tests, and gunnery tables, to set conditions for the primary competition events from May 2 to May 6. The official opening ceremony began on May 2, preluding the Bradley and Abrams crew gunnery, a stress shoot, a physical proficiency test, and culminating with the ‘Thunder Run’ later in the week.
To be able to compete in the Sullivan Cup, crews assigned to 11th ACR in Fort Irwin were assessed through a rigorous four months of physical training, basic Soldier tasks, tank maintenance, weapon systems included in tank gunnery, small arms weapons qualification, stress shoots and tank gunnery tables.
Competing this year as the 11th ACR tank crew was Staff Sgt. Alex Jobe, tank commander, Sgt. Fernando Medina, gunner, Spc. Arath Flores, loader, and Spc. Joshua Kramer, driver, who all formed the crew of a M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank.
The crew gunnery began for Staff Sgt. Jobe’s team on May 3 at the Digital Multi-Purpose Range Complex. The multiple gunnery engagements evaluated all competitor crews in their ability to engage stationary and moving targets arrayed in offensive and defensive positions during day and night conditions. After the gunnery iterations, the Sullivan Cup cadre held an after action review with the crews to discuss scoring based on U.S. Army crew and qualification standards, including the use of normal and degraded modes on the fire control system.
“Tensions were high and the pressure was on,” recalled Spc. Flores after seeing their crew standings in last place at the beginning of Table VI gunnery. In the previous competition held in 2018, 11th ACR finished in last place overall. “I made sure that I hit all of my targets and reloaded when I needed to. I feel like I did that to the best of my ability,” said Flores.
On the morning of May 5, the 11th ACR team moved to the Simpson and English ranges to be evaluated on their ability to rapidly and accurately engage targets with small arms and crew served weapons. The stress shoot began with an obstacle course involving running, vaulting, jumping barriers, balancing, and climbing a rope. After completing the obstacles, competitors engaged targets downrange with the M17 pistol, M4 rifle, and crew served weapons. Before crossing the finish line, two litters with simulated casualties were required to be pulled approximately 100 meters.
Official standings were released that afternoon showing that 11th ACR had moved up in placement from 7th to 6th place.
“It definitely felt great not to be last but we still had work to do. The competition wasn’t over,” said Spc. Kramer. “The stress shoot was a lot harder than I expected. You had to think about every single thing that you were doing at that moment.”
After the stress shoot, the 11th ACR crew transitioned to the physical proficiency test at Stewart Field. Competitors were tasked to complete five stations: an ammunition lift, tow cable crawl, track block shuffle, road wheel roll, and one mile run.
This portion of the competition focused largely on individual physical ability. “We already knew where we stood at each individual event. We knew where each other's strengths and weaknesses were and we built off that,” said Spc. Flores. Out of the five stations, Spc. Kramer believed that the track block shuffle was the most difficult. “It was the middle event and the most physically demanding. It was a mental battle and also a physical battle to push through,” said Kramer.
The final event on May 6, was the ‘Thunder Run,’ a footrace to Brave Rifles Field where the competitors then performed a series of physical and tactical tasks such as operating a radio, map reading, call for fire, medical evacuation, and weapons proficiency.
“I’m proud that the crew was able to keep the morale up every day throughout every single event or obstacle that was in front of us,” said Spc. Flores.
During the awards ceremony, the 11th ACR tank crew was recognized for their excellence by placing first in both the gunnery skills test and the ‘Thunder Run’ events.
"I cannot express how proud I am of my guys," said Staff Sgt. Alex Jobe. "They have worked relentlessly to prove they can compete with the best. They have exceeded expectations and persevered through all uncertainties."
With this year’s competition at an end, the 11th ACR crew attests that the Sullivan Cup this year would not have been a possibility for them without the right planning, training, and maintenance team to prepare and support them.
“Although our primary mission here is to provide world class Opposing Force at the National Training Center, with the proper motivation, training and equipment, we can compete with anyone in the Army,” said Sgt. 1st Class Travis Daddato, Regimental master gunner and coach for this year's crew.
The next Sullivan Cup is scheduled to take place in the first week of May 2024 at Fort Benning, Georgia.