A classroom containing the engine and transmission of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle is another sign of change at Fort Benning.
The ongoing merger of the infantry and armor schools, which will be completed in September, has created the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
And that change was evident Thursday as 35 students are among the first soldiers on post to get 13 weeks of training to maintain the 36-ton, M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. In the past, maintenance classes for the infantry vehicle have been conducted at Fort Knox, Ky., as well as at Fort Benning and some other posts. The graduation is set for April 14, the first since the U.S. Armor School’s move to Fort Benning from Fort Knox.
Maintenance training on the 69-ton M1A1 Abrams main battle tank, the armor branch’s signature vehicle, will begin in August. Armor and cavalry troop courses will start in March.
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In a Harmony Church classroom, Leo Hardesty and other instructors each worked with four students from F Company, 3rd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment. Hardesty, a civilian instructor with 27 years of service, recently moved from Kentucky and is building a home in Stewart County, about 16 miles south of the post.
During Thursday’s class, he focused on solving problems with the Bradley, whether you are in the field training or under fire in combat.
“Once they leave me, they should be able to go to the field with a senior mechanic or at least a specialist and do maintenance work,” Hardesty said. “I’m teaching them the basics.”
Hardesty said the classroom setting in a new building is much better than the facilities at Fort Knox.
“It is better than what we had,” he said. “We got more room and stuff. There are a few issues we are working out. It’s going to be a good training environment for them.”
Solving a problem with the Bradley is similar to walking into a room when the light switch doesn’t work, Hardesty told his class. You search for a logical solution, he said, first checking the light bulb and then the circuit breaker. With no success, you then look out the door to view your neighbor’s home to see if the power is out.
“Now call the electric company,” Hardesty said. “You check what you need to check. Don’t just come in the front door, turn the switch on and call -- he is going to charge you $100 service call to put in a light bulb.”
Hardesty encouraged students to go as far as possible before calling for help.
“Once you get to a point you can’t go any farther, that is when you call for help,” he said.
Pfc. Jose Figuroa, 19, of Worcester, Mass., said he was in the course because he has an interest in mechanics in general.
“It looks complicated but Mr. Hardesty makes it look easy,” he said. “After a couple of years, I think I will be OK.”
The key to learning the material is being prepared and staying focused, he said.
“It’s been good so far. There is a lot to take in,” Figuroa said. “As long as you stay disciplined, take notes, you will be all right.”
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hahner, who arrived at Fort Benning this month after spending two years at Fort Knox, said 436 soldiers will go through the mechanics training this year, starting a class of 40 every three weeks.
“I’ve been around to all training and we are in another state of change,” Hahner said. “The Army is changing. We are trying to keep pace with the change. We’ve got to update our training and skill sets, too.”