Mystery task tests teams' shooting as Sullivan Cup continues

benw@ledger-enquirer.comMay 14, 2014 

ROBIN TRIMARCHI rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Sgt. 1st Class Michael Turner, center left, talks with soldiers in an Abrams M1A2 SEP tank simulator during Sullivan Cup competition at the Clarke Simulation Center on Harmony Church. The soldiers were setting up a "hasty defense" counter attack, which was the second part of a "movement to contact" exercise. The simulators are used as close combat tactical trainers. 05.14.14

ROBIN TRIMARCHI — rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

On the third day of the 2014 Sullivan Cup Competition, soldiers encountered a mystery event Wednesday on Krilling Range at Fort Benning.

The four-man teams from 19 tank crews were forced to haul a 270-pound casualty a quarter-mile, then fire the M-4 rifle and 9 mm pistol at selected targets during a timed event. The exercise was among a series of events to determine the best tank crew in the Army. The winning team will be announced today after a gunnery exercise with the M1A1 tank.

Lt. Col. Matthew Scalia, commander of the 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, helped coordinate the mystery with help from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. The 15-to-25-minute event not only tests soldiers’ accuracy with the weapons but also their speed. “It’s blazing fast speed but accuracy is lacking a bit,” Scalia said of early teams that completed the course.

The competition has been challenging and a little stressful from day one, said Staff Sgt. Michael Rogers of 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. Rogers and his crew spent part of Wednesday morning at the Clarke Simulations Center where crews perform defensive and offensive tactics with the tank.

Rogers said his crews have been able to push through challenges.

“We’ve been able to work together with me being the tank commander,” Rogers said of his crew. “They get frustrated and I may yell. We do the same thing in physical events, but at the end we push through it.”

Rogers admits to an aggressive style of leading but says his crews respond to it. “They feed off of that aggression,” he said. “It helps out and gets us from point A to point B. That is my style of doing things.”

When the competition was held in 2012, Rogers said he was headed to Korea but was offered a chance to compete last year. “We started gunnnery back in October and we did really well,” Rogers said. “At the end, we came out on top and we were chosen to represent the division.”

Capt. Dan Schmidt, the officer in charge of Tactical Simulation for the Sullivan Cup, said tank crews are put through exercises in urban terrain in the simulator then move to defending a mountain top. The exercises take 15 minutes to an hour to complete.

“The exercise determines which crew is the most tactically efficient crew,” Schmidt said. “This is a better way to see how the crew operates by itself in a tactical environment against a moving, thinking enemy.”

With tank crews at the simulations center, the competitors created a buzz of excitement for Ray Davis and two dozen other visitors.

“We have seen things very few people are going to see,” Davis said outside an M1A1 simulator. “The amount of training these guys are able to do at Fort Benning, you would have never imagined what kind of facilities Fort Benning has.”

The simulators allow soldiers to take fire commands and shoot targets as a tank crew. The simulators also save money on the cost of ammunition.

Davis said he was aware of the Sullivan Cup competition at Fort Benning when he was invited to the post. “You see the best in the world here and know that you are among them,” he said. “You are actually seeing what they train on, and how they prepare for combat is amazing. The new technology is unbelievable.”

After three days of competition, Schmidt said preparing tanks for live firing, taking part in stress shooting at Krilling and the simulations at Clarke took a toll on soldiers. “These guys are fairly worn out right now,” he said.

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