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Engineers build tank display pads for Armor School

FORT BENNING, Ga. — An Armor School need turned into a chance for the 11th Engineer Battalion to train — and the endeavor paid dividends for both.

The 63rd Engineer Company’s Construction Platoon has built two tank display pads along Benning Boulevard at what’s set to become an entrance to the future Armor and Cavalry Museum. The 16-feet-by-27-feet gravel pads sit near Access Control Point 2.

The engineers coordinated with the Armor School and Directorate of Public Works to make sure environmental documents were done properly and funding could be acquired.

“We’re usually brought in as a cost-savings measure. Generally, you’re just paying for materials,” said Capt. Shane Peronto, officer in charge of construction operations for the 11th Engineer Battalion. “It’s a training opportunity for us. You don’t get much better training than actually doing a construction mission. It’s a win-win for both parties.

“These things are difficult to simulate, and there are problems that arise during a real construction mission that you just can’t simulate. It offers huge training value for us.”

He said the bill of materials cost was $1,420. Installation began March 8 and the entire project is scheduled for completion by the end of next week.

Engineers laid 40 tons of gravel, which was compacted by machines to a depth of 11 inches. The display will feature an M4 Sherman tank from the Korean War era and an M1 Abrams tank restored to 24th Infantry Division Desert Storm specifications. A decal reading, “Big Nasty,” is being placed on the latter vehicle’s muzzle.

Officials remain in the process of shipping the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor collection from Fort Knox, Ky., to Fort Benning as part of the historic Maneuver Center of Excellence formation, said Maj. Sam Welch of the Armor School.

“Establishing the tank pads and display along Benning Boulevard is the first step in raising public awareness that an Armor and Cavalry museum will be constructed in the future,” he said. “This effort will allow the Fort Benning community to share Armor and Cavalry heritage and history.”

Welch said both tanks have special meaning to Fort Benning. The M1 Abrams tank represents the 197th Infantry Brigade’s Desert Storm deployment as a separate Mechanized Infantry Combat Brigade in support of the 24th Infantry Division. The 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, backed the 197th’s operations in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991. The M4 Sherman, meanwhile, signifies 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division service during the Korean conflict.

The display will be complete in time for the MCoE’s inaugural Reconnaissance Summit April 6-8, he said.

The Construction Platoon effort was led by 2nd Lt. Charles McDonald, the platoon leader; Sgt. 1st Class Johnathan Taylor, the platoon sergeant; and Sgt. Jacob Ihu, the project NCOIC.