Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (Mustangs) from Fort Hood, Texas participated in live fire exercises as part of their preparation for Combined Resolve XIII on January 16, 2020, according to 241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
Combined Resolve XIII is Headquarters Department of the Army (HQDA) directed Multinational Unified Land Operation event that exercises the U.S. Regionally Assigned Force (RAF) brigade in support of the European Commands (EUCOM) objectives. The purpose is to prepare the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division along with 16 other partner and allied nations, totaling more than 5,000 service members, to fight and win in the European Area of Operations (AOR).
The battalion’s M1A2 Abrams tanks were one of the primary battlefield components during this live fire exercise.
“Everybody has an equal job out there between the driver, the gunner, the loader and the tank commander,” said Bravo Company platoon leader, 1st Lt. William Palanza. “It’s their job to be experts at that one job and overlap with everyone else’s job. For example, the loader, he’s right in front of the radios, so it’s his job to be able to maintain those radios while we maneuver because the driver has to focus on driving, the gunner is focused on scanning and trying to pick up targets, while the TC (tank commander) is focused on maneuvering, as well as reporting up to higher.”
Each Soldier has a vital role in ensuring that tank operations are a safe and successful exercise.
“I take a round out and load it. You’re supposed to complete this in under seven seconds, but you can usually do it in four to five. I’d say the max engagement time, (for the M1A2) is up to one minute, the minimum, probably 15 seconds if you’re really good,” said Private First Class Dakota Mitchell, an M1A2 tank loader with Bravo Company.
Mitchell also spoke about how the training and participation in Combined Resolve XIII is conducted at a much faster tempo than what most Soldiers are accustomed to back in the United States, as he went on to say, “Overseas training is a lot better because you’re always hitting the ground. As soon as we got here we started with gunnery, we also went to a platoon live fire, a company live fire, and now we’re here at battalion live fire.”
Although the training is conducted at a very rapid pace, the weather isn’t always favorable. Temperatures commonly fall below 30 degrees fahrenheit.
“Not only is it more painful for the Soldiers trying to get used to the cold, but then it takes a toll on the vehicles, on batteries, on maintenance, but everybody’s performed pretty well,” said Bravo Company’s First Sgt. Chad Persinger. We’re adapting to the weather, to the terrain… this is new terrain for a lot of people.”
Persinger was also in charge of running casualty evacuation, yet another very important component to overall success or failure on the battlefield. He escorted the medics and was responsible for getting Soldiers the care that they needed.
During the live fire exercise, the Soldiers were tasked with putting their Abrams tanks through a number of battlefield strategies.
“We have our two tank companies and our infantry company, as well as our mortars and our scouts. Basically, every component of the battalion, as well as other units that are tasked over to us,” said Palanza. “We’ll be doing a movement to contact, a race to key terrain. We go from that to a hasty defense, and then from that we transition to an offensive attack, and we’ll breach the enemy’s obstacle that’s set up.”
As many nations are working together once again in a coordinated military fashion, they have opportunities to see how their allied partners operate.
“Yesterday during the live fire we saw the Italians fire our version of the Paladin, so they shot some of those rounds over the top of us, and honestly it was breathtaking,” said Mitchell. Y ou could see the main gun rock back and then rock forward before shooting the round. I wish I was in that system so I could see how it works.”
The allied Soldiers not only admire each other’s military hardware, but also take some time to strengthen their relationships on a personal level.
“We have Italians here, we have Germans, a multitude of multinational militaries. I’ve played ping pong with the Italians. You’re trying to break that language barrier between us, and there’s usually one or two in the group that can speak English,” said Palanza. “I sat down with a few Italian tankers, so they asked me about the Abrams and vice versa. We talked about each other’s tanks and they said that once we’re done in the field they wanted to come down to our motor pool to get a look, cause they’ve never seen an Abrams before and this is an opportunity for them to see one of the best tanks in the world.”
Combined Resolve XIII is a continuing joint effort to build readiness and interoperability, to promote regional stability and to enhance allied and partnered relationships.