By Vince Little, The BayonetJune 23, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga., June 24, 2011 -- The Maneuver Center of Excellence got another chunk of Armor on Monday.
The 194th Armored Brigade and 316th Cavalry Brigade -- the Armor School’s primary training units -- officially landed in their new home at Harmony Church on Fort Benning, Ga., uncasing the unit colors in a ceremony on Brave Rifles Field.
Leaders said it’s a big step toward finishing the move from Fort Knox, Ky., and meeting the Sept. 15 deadline for Base Realignment and Closure.
“This marks a significant milestone in the transformation to the Maneuver Center of Excellence,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the MCoE and Fort Benning commanding general. “We have learned from our earliest days of war that combined-arms maneuver is the winning combination. This is a historic day. It’s a monumental change for us, but training Armor, Cavalry and Infantry together makes sense.”
Under the reorganization, every Soldier, noncommissioned officer and officer in the Infantry and Armor branches will receive initial, mid-level and senior training at Fort Benning. In addition, 52 percent of all Soldiers will train here in some capacity.
“Consolidating with our Infantry brothers here at Fort Benning is a great thing for the Army,” said Col. Marshall Dougherty, the 316th Cavalry Brigade commander, who arrived Friday. “We’re excited. It’s a combined-arms fight today, so it’s great to be on the same post.”
The two brigades cased their colors June 10 at Fort Knox, where Armor spent the past seven decades. The transfer, however, is actually a return of sorts -- the Army Tank School operated on Fort Benning from 1932 to 1938, while then-Col. George S. Patton commanded the 2nd Armored Division here after its activation in July 1940.
Armor advance parties showed up on post last summer to prepare the Harmony Church platform, and the first courses kicked off in January. Soldiers, families and other assets continue to flow into Fort Benning and the tricommunity on a daily basis.
“It’s a great day. We’re coming home,” said Col. Dave Thompson, commander of the 194th Armored Brigade. “Our Soldiers and families are eager to get here. We’re seeing the end of the tunnel now.”
Infantry and Armor maintain their traditional identities, lineage and customs under the MCoE banner, but the merger at one location benefits both by enhancing training capabilities and making them more efficient, Brown said.
“Training together from day one will enable even greater success in our future complex operating environments,” he said. “We integrate effectively in battle, so it is only appropriate we are integrated in training. We must train as we fight " and now we can. Together, building on solid foundations, we will write a new chapter in Army history.”
BRAC was announced in 2005, but the planning goes back about a decade.
“It took a cast of thousands to make this possible,” Dougherty said. “We fight as a combined-arms team, so we should train that way as well at home station. Training as we fight is the absolute right thing to do.”
Through 2014, Fort Benning will complete $3.5 billion in construction around post, much of it aimed at developing Harmony Church to accommodate Armor and Cavalry Soldiers and hardware being relocated here. That includes more than 140 miles of new roads and tank trails, 93 low-water crossings and the Digital Multi-Purpose Range Complex.
“The amount of investment is incredible,” Thompson said. “Today is the culmination of a lot of things for the Armor School. It’s been a long haul to get down here. We’re looking forward to getting to work.”
As the transition unfolds, a few Armor courses remain at Fort Knox, he said. Planners set up 90-day windows for units to end classes there and start training here. That includes 30 days to pack, 30 to move to Fort Benning, and 30 for setup and preparation of training delivery at Harmony Church.
The Armor School conducts 17 courses overall. They include instruction for Cavalry scouts, Abrams tank and Bradley fighting vehicle maintainers, master gunners, and Basic and Advanced Officer Leader courses.
316th ARMORED BRIGADE
• Constituted Sept. 5, 1942, as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Tank Destroyer Group.
• Re-designated March 1, 1952, as HHC, 316th Armored Cavalry Group, at Roswell, N.M.
• Re-designated as HHC, 316th Cavalry Brigade, and transferred to Training and Doctrine Command on July 24, 2007.
• Headquarters activated Aug. 27, 2007, at Fort Knox, Ky.
• Brigade colors cased June 10 at Fort Knox.
• Colors uncased Monday at Fort Benning under Maneuver Center of Excellence.
• Unit participated in the Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe campaigns during World War II.
194th ARMORED BRIGADE
• Organized June 24, 1921, in the Organized Reserves as HHC, 194th Infantry Brigade, assigned to the 97th Division the following year at Concord, N.H.
• After several re-designations, the 194th Armored Brigade was assigned to the Army’s Combat Developments Command Oct. 1, 1962, to test new materiel at Fort Ord, Calif. It was later reorganized at Fort Knox to support the Armor School in place of the 16th Armor Group.
• Assumed command of the 1st Armored Training Brigade and transferred to TRADOC on Nov. 9, 2006.
• Brigade colors cased June 10 at Fort Knox.
• Colors uncased Monday at Fort Benning under MCoE.