‘Dagger’ Brigade Soldiers fire divison’s newest tanks
A cloud of dust and smoke blows back over the turret of an M1A2SEP V2 Abrams Tank during a tank gunnery exercise June 20 at Fort Riley’s Douthit Range Complex. Soldiers with the 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt., and the 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt., tested out the capabilities of the new tanks during a month long gunnery, the first exercise of this type the 2nd HBCT has conducted in more than two years. Photo by: Mollie Miller, 1ST INF. DIV.
Story by: Mollie Miller
1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Soldiers with the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division are putting the capabilities of the Army's newest and most lethal tank to the test this month during a gunnery exercise at Fort Riley's Douthit Range Complex.
The month long exercise, which began June 4, is the first tank live fire the "Dagger" Brigade has conducted in more than two years.
"This is so much fun," said Pfc. Javier Villafuerte, a loader, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd HBCT. "It is so great to get back into the tank."
The tank the young Soldier is so happy to be in is the M1A2SEP V2 Abrams Tank, the newest version of a piece of equipment that has been keeping America's fighting men and women safe for more than a quarter of a century.
The new Abrams tank features a variety of improvements that, according to the Army's tankers, increase the lethality and protective capabilities of the tank. On the protective side, a new Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station allows the tank commander to engage targets without having to expose himself to enemy fire. On the lethality side, improved optics now allow tank crews to identify targets in excess of 4,000 meters away – more than 1,000 meters further than previous versions of the Abrams.
"This is the best equipment in the world at destroying the enemy from a distance," said Lt. Col. Jason Wolter, commander, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt.
For many members of Wolter's battalion, this month's gunnery marked the first time they have been back in a tank since their Advanced Individual Training schools. Prior to this month, Villafuerte had not shot gunnery in more than a year, and Wolter, himself, had not been inside a tank since 2000.
"We are getting back to the fundamentals of our profession," the commander said. "Training like this is helping us build the Army's next crop of great leaders."
Second Lt. Ryan Cook was building his leadership skills June 20 as he watched his platoon conduct an after action review of one of its engagements. The young "Dagger" Brigade lieutenant took notes as his crew discussed the challenges they had faced inside the tank and how they could do things better in the future.
"I'm really proud of my platoon," Cook said. "Watching them progress from the training we did in the motor pool, to the dry fire and then the live fire has been great. They are doing a really good job handling all the different scenarios they have been presented."
Sgt. Arlis Elkins, a tank commander with the battalion, has been in the Army for eight years, but has been out of the tank for several years because his team has worked to accomplish more of an infantry mission during recent deployments. The young tanker said he was excited to be back in the tank and have the opportunity to test out all of the Abrams' new features.
"This is the best the Army has to offer," he said with a huge smile on his face.
Crews with the 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt., and the 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt., will continue training on their new tanks throughout the coming months in preparation for an anticipated rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Additional M1A2SEP V2 Abrams Tanks are scheduled to arrive at Fort Riley later this fall to update the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team's vehicle fleet.