By Vince Little, The BayonetNovember 1, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - The Armor School's first Bradleys have made it to Fort Benning.
Three M2A2 Operation Desert Storm Bradley fighting vehicles arrived Friday at Building 5205, where Soldiers steered them into the new Vehicle Maintenance Instruction Facility on Harmony Church. Three more came in Tuesday, and the total shipment of 10 from Fort Knox, Ky., is expected to be in place by mid-November.
The Maneuver Center of Excellence is receiving another 28 vehicles from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team's Left Behind Equipment inventory, which saves the Army money in training aid acquisition costs, 194th Armored Brigade officials said. All 38 Bradleys will be used to conduct the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle System Maintainer class, advanced individual training for Bradley maintainers. That includes the Advanced Leaders Course.
It's the first Armor School course scheduled for Fort Benning - students arrive Jan. 7 and training starts three days later.
"This is a big maneuver in the history of the Armor School," said CW4 Trent Hanson, officer in charge of the 194th Armored Brigade's advance party. "There are a lot of firsts going on right now. ... We have a lot of pieces involved in our relocation. It's a change for all of us."
Training aids and other equipment already had been delivered to the Vehicle Maintenance Instruction Facility, but the Bradley transfer is a "major end item," said SFC Rob Putzer, NCOIC of 3rd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment's advance party and training management NCO for the Bradley maintainer course's armament phase.
"It's nice to know you're setting something up that might last in perpetuity," he said.
The final M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle System Maintainer class at Fort Knox graduated earlier this month, SFC Putzer said. The course lasts 12 weeks and four days. It features a 40-1 ratio of students to instructor in the classroom and 4-to-1 during the hands-on portions.
At Fort Benning, the course will be led by F Company, 3rd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment. An activation ceremony is set for Friday.
The unit did not exist at Fort Knox, where instructors and students were assigned to different companies, CW4 Hanson said. They'll both fall under the same command here.
"That's a big change from what we were doing," he said. "We hope to improve efficiency."
Eventually, F Company will number about 65 permanent personnel and close to 200 overall, counting trainees. SFC Putzer said the goal is to launch a new class every two weeks.
The first Bradley maintainer course graduation takes place in April. The top six graduates with assignments to M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle units will remain at Harmony Church for three extra weeks to complete the Additional Skill Identifier Course.
All Armor School students will train and live in state-of-the-art facilities built or nearing completion at Harmony Church, CW4 Hanson said. New barracks just across U.S. Route 28/280 can house 240 Soldiers each.
"This whole move has been made easier by the support of the entire Fort Benning community," said SFC Putzer, who arrived in July. "Everybody's been so helpful, not only on post but out in town, too."
A PEEK AT THE BRADLEY FIGHTING VEHICLE
* Since entering service with the U.S. Army in 1981, a total of 6,724 Bradleys have been produced.
* The vehicle's latest version is the M2/M3A3 CMED, which is powered by Chassis Modernization Embedded Diagnostic systems.
* The first Bradley arrived at Fort Knox's Armor Center in 1981.