'Pretty cool' is the way eighth-grader Tyler Moore described the scene as a 33-ton Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled its way at 15 mph up steamy Front Avenue, fronted by a pickup with a “Wide Load” sign and backed by a truck full of observers. Obviously, the Harris County youngster wasn’t talking about the weather and its almost 100-degree heat index along the route. Dozens of people, many of them employees of businesses along the street, did turn out to watch what the Army described as a serious training exercise. “They were great,” said Maj. Shane Sims of Fort Benning’s Soldier Battle Lab, referring to the onlookers. “We can’t totally replicate the urban conditions we would encounter in Iraq. But the tall buildings on this street and the traffic along the route and the people on the side of the road made this a good exercise.”
Sims, who has served a deployment to Iraq, said Thursday’s exercise — which involved two Bradleys, one an M2A3 model currently in use, and the other a prototype — was designed to test the on-board camera system in a complex, urban terrain.
The goal was to stress the Bradley camera sensor system with clutter — buildings, people and traffic — because such stressors are part of the current operational environment and cannot be duplicated at Fort Benning. Soldiers posing as snipers were hiding along the route.
“We’ll continue to evaluate information we gathered today,” Sims said. “The jury is still out on this system.”
He mentioned that the lab will be testing a different system in two weeks. Part of a month-long experiment, Bradley soldiers have long wanted a camera system to help them see blind spots around their vehicle. Skell and Kathy Skelly of Columbus came out early Thursday to watch the Bradleys make eight runs up and down Front. “I can’t believe the Bradley is as big as it is,” said Skelly as his wife filmed one of the drive-bys. Elena Galvis, clad in a Columbus Catfish jersey, said she has a particular fondness for armored vehicles.
“I can’t wait to see the tanks come down here in a couple of years,” she said.
Galvis was accompanied by her sister, who had ducked into a nearby building to talk with friends and escape the heat when the first Bradley drove by.
“We’ve been waiting all this time and now she’s going to miss it,” Galvis said.
After the experiment, one of the Bradleys remained on static display outside the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. Crew members remained on hand to answer questions from the public.