FORT HOOD, Texas — A tank confidently crosses over open water. The bridge beneath buckles and bows under its weight, but never breaks. The Soldiers who guide the vehicle will continue sending others just like it over a structure that was assembled less than an hour ago.
On Oct. 26, engineers assembled two bridges over Cowhouse Creek in the Fort Hood training areas using boats, ropes and skill. Soldiers from 36th Engineer Brigade sent an assault team to secure the site, and soon after, 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Cavalry Regiment were rumbling over the gap.
“Fort Hood is the best location for this because it has the capabilities for both wet and dry-gap crossing at the same location,” said U.S. Army Capt. Carly Lafranchi, 74th Multi-Role Bridge Company commander. “It also already has armored elements present, which means we don’t need to make major movements to accomplish our training.”
The training began cold and early for the bridging company, who first needed to raft Soldiers across the gap in order to secure the area for the full-scale crossing.
“So, the first thing we did this morning was send an assault team to the far side so they could clear the area and pave the way for the bridge and mounted troops,” Lafranchi said. ”Then we created a full enclosure bridge, which is the Improved Ribbon Bridge, so that vehicles can drive across instead of needing to be rafted.”
These armored vehicles included High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, M1126 Stryker Combat Vehicles and M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks which all crossed without a hitch.
“I think we did really good today,” said Sgt. Omar Raygoza, a bridge crew operator assigned to 74th Multi-Role Bridge Company. “We had great communication between the rafts and operators, so I think we were really successful.”
The success of the crossing not only represents the first steps towards this training becoming more common, but it also shows the skills of the personnel working on the ground.
“This has been really eye-opening for what [multi-role bridge companies] are really capable of in a short time,” Raygoza said. “This type of exercise is perfect to show exactly what we can do and what our equipment can handle. I’m excited for the what the future has to hold because [multi-role bridge companies] are on the way up.”
The future of these crossings should continue to see a steady increase as III Armored Corps and Fort Hood work to fill in the gap in Army crossing experience.
“We are so excited about the Gap Crossing Training Center at Fort Hood,” said Maj. Gen. Christopher Beck, the III Armored Corps deputy commanding general for maneuver. “It allows us to bring combined arms teams together, multi-echelon, and we hope one day multidomain as well, to train as a combined arms team at the brigade combat team level and at the division level and really test things that other training centers don’t have the ability to physically do like we can here at Fort Hood.”
That ability to conduct unique training has contributed to Fort Hood’s push towards becoming the premiere training installation for the Army. Its biggest boon in this goal is the terrain and diverse unit makeup of the installation.
“It’s the physical reality,” Beck said. “We have the gap-crossing capabilities, we have a river here, we have 1st Cavalry Division, we have the MP’s, we have the engineers, we have the artillery, we have all the assets we need to leverage, and we are looking at this as the ground entry level for the Army to come train here.”
As this effort continues over the coming years, Fort Hood and III Armored Corps will continue to utilize those native advantages in order to make the Army a more lethal fighting force.
“For the most part, it’s still very much in its infancy,” Beck said. “From the discussions we’ve had with Army leaders there’s a lot of excitement. They understand the potential, and as I’ve told everyone out here today ‘the only thing that limits us is our imagination.’”