Combining schools great idea

September 16, 2008 

By now I imagine everyone has figured out that the big changes at Fort Benning include the move of the Armor School from Fort Knox to Fort Benning, thanks to the Base Realignment and Closure process.

This will consolidate the two ground gaining maneuver arms, and that’s a good thing. Combat has been a combined arms activity for a long time. Placing the two branch schools in the same place should foster even closer cooperation and understanding than the Army has experienced previously.

I imagine a little branch rivalry will remain, but the end result will be positive for the Army and the rest of us.

Tanks have been on the battlefield for quite some time. The Battle of the Somme on Sept. 15, 1916, included the first large-scale use of tanks in modern warfare as best I know it. Those first tank models were mostly a promise of things to come.

Mobility, firepower and reliability were issues. Armies everywhere had internal disagreements regarding whether tanks supported infantry or infantry supported tanks.

It takes some time to figure out the best way to use any new technology. Most authors I’ve read give the Germans in World War II the nod for figuring out the best use of tanks to spearhead rapid maneuver to unhinge an enemy’s defense.

I think by the time WWII was over, our side had figured out how to use tanks and produced enough new systems to stop armor so that we were pretty comfortable with armored warfare whether we were on the offense or defending against it.

The physical aspects of the battlefield affect the utility of armor or any motorized vehicle. Anyone who has driven a truck across a soggy pasture knows that anything can get stuck.

I’ve managed to watch my soldiers get plenty of trucks and other armored vehicles stuck, even getting the recovery vehicles stuck. Ah, those were some fine times!

Nonetheless, in the right terrain, like a desert or rolling hills, a tank is quite a beast to behold when on the move and engaging targets. That’s making my heart beat fast and I was in Field Artillery!

During my career I saw the pendulum swing several times regarding whether tanks or anti-armor systems were supposed to rule the battlefield. Tanks can have trouble in close terrain such as in cities, forests and jungles. Certain types of warfare put much more of a premium on infantry actions than armored battles such as counterinsurgency.

Regardless, we still need tanks. Think back a few weeks to the Russians invading Georgia. I know I saw a number of vehicles with tracks.

Tanks remain a powerful element of the ground force. We citizens of Columbus are fortunate that we will now have both principal ground gaining maneuver arms based nearby. A lot has changed since 1916, but a tank still makes a powerful statement. We are privileged to soon be hosting both the Infantry and Armor branches.

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