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Tanks a Lot!

Sadly, at some point, the file copies of Blackhorse Newspaper that had been retained by Regiment were reduced to a small collection of clippings.  If you call or visit the 11th ACR Museum at Fort Irwin and ask to see what they have, out comes a folder, out spills a pitiful collection of yellowed partial pages and there goes what should have been an invaluable collection of names, dates and events.  In a folder marked Force Modernization, a small collection of articles related to the M60 tanks and virtually nothing on M1 or similar new weapons systems.   I am sure at the time, reducing the file copies of the monthly paper to a single folder must have seemed like a really good idea.

The newspaper images that accompanied these articles were in rough shape, I have substituted images from the site photo collection that are appropriate.

Tanks and the 1980s

What was Saved

Blackhorse

June 1978

June was the month they all waited for.  There were those among them that dreaded it, but it happened.  Two squadrons of the Regiment turned in the vehicles which were “ babies “ to some  and “ tin cans “  to others.

During the month of June the First and Second Squadrons exchanged their Sheridans (M551A1 Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicles ) for new M60A1 Main Battle Tanks.

Each squadron turned in 54 Sheridans and received 36 M60A1s which will now be used by members of the line Troops.  Several new soldiers with the 19E MOS are and will be replacing the former 11DR8 MOS soldiers which are Armored Reconnaissance Specialists who are Sheridan qualified.  In addition, former Sheridan crewmembers will receive on the job training as crewmembers of the new battle tanks.

A soldier from B Troop is pictured here involved in some of that training as he crawls with a tow cable for time, one of the events in the “ Tankers PT “ training.  Other events and requirements of the test are: The ammo lift, which requires the soldiers to lift a dummy 105mm round above their head at least 45 time, the low crawl in which the soldier low crawls under four M60A1s I less than 24 seconds, the track block shuffle, where you move a stack of ten track blocks 25 meters and re - stack them exactly as they were in 3 minutes, 17 seconds, rolling a road wheel for time and doing a two mile for time.  In the case of B Troop, the top performer gets the rest of the afternoon off.

This is only a small part of the intensive training that is going on to familiarize the soldiers with the new tanks.  Every day the soldiers are being briefed and taught by tank qualified personnel on all aspects of the vehicles.  This is being accomplished by maintenance ands weapons system classes on the subject.  In addition training is also being put to use I the local field training sites to prepare soldiers for battle field conditions.  Pictured below are members of First Squadron, including commander LTC James B. Taylor, waving farewell to one of the last Sheridans rolling out the gate as a new M60A1 takes up its place on the line.

The Blackhorse

May 1980

Eaglehorse Moves to ‘ Space Age ‘

Sp/5 Ron Graddy

Beams of light wink through space striking the enemy war machines.  Suddenly the enemy war machines burst into flames as the good guys score yet another hit.

Of this was the post theater you might think you were watching another science fiction film like Star Wars.  What is really happening is that laser range finder equipped tanks of the 2nd Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment from Bad Kissinger, are on guard.

Eaglehorse squadron solders have become believers in space age warfare with the addition of the M60 A3 tank to their already impressive arsenal.

The M60A3 is an improved version of the Army’s M60 series which has been in the field for decades.

M60A3s feature a laser operated rangefinder that gives instant range readouts with the flick of a finger.  This computer operated system has dramatically increased the chance of a first round hit in modern tank combat.  For Eaglehorse men the A3 could mean the difference between life and death on some future battlefield.  According to Sgt. Kenneth Neff of Fox Troop, “ The M60 A3s take the guesswork out of the system.”  A tanker for all of his career, Neff is impressed with his new equipment.

“ For a tanker, speed is everything,” Neff relates.  “ If you don’t get an opposing tank with the first round, that tank may very well get you.”

Two weeks of transition training from the squadron old M60 A1s to the A3 consisted of both classroom and hand on training.

“You have to have full confidence in the computer,” say instructor SFC Donald Stockton.  “ Experienced tankers find that the hardest thing is letting the computer handle all the small adjustments that they have normally handled.  Once they believe that the computer can do the job, they have no problems.”

“ First round hit capability is important to modern tankers, “ says Stockton, and experienced tanker with many years of service with the M60 series.  “ The m60A3 greatly increases the tankers chances for successful combat.  The M60A1 only gave about a 30 to 40 percent chance of obtaining that all important first round hit.  The A3 provides at least a 70 percent  hit probability.  And remember this is an average, not what the best crews can do.”

After taking possession of their new tanks and completing classroom and dry fire training, Eaglehorse tankers moved to the live fire ranges.  Here the battlefield zero was checked for accuracy.

Using modern technology, tankers were given instant corrections from the range tower.  Unaware of the system, tank crews were amazed at the quality of guidance from the tower.

With Television cameras and a video tape playback machine, the transition team was able to see the exact spot where the round hit the target.  With the instant replay system instructors could playback the firing and freeze the scene which showed the round hitting the target.

After zeroing - in, tanks and crews moved on to another range to fire at both moving and still tagers.  Fox 11 scored an impressive 87 percent on the range the first time out.  PFC Columbus Waters, the Fox 11 driver, relates, “ I’ll get the rest of the crew there to do their job.  They just have to keep the enemy off my back. “

Fox 22 is another 2nd Squadron  11th ACR tank.  Called SATE for “ Supreme Allied Tank Europe “, by its crew it also posted respectable scores on the range.  SSG Charles Cox, the tank commander, said, “ The new system is a vast improvement over the old  way of doing things.  As soon as we fully understand and are fully trained in the system we will be almost unstoppable. “

Sp4 Gary Wade is the Fox 22 gunner.  Wade a and PFC Abraham Dumas, the loader, both feel the new system makes them more combat effective.  Sp4 Steve Dohler, the Fox 22 driver, feels, “ We are a team.  As long as I do my job we move.  When the loader and the gunner don’t do their job we become just an expensive taxi.  It takes all of us working together to make it happen. “

For tank commander SFC Kenneth Shields, Neff and the rest of the Fox 14 crew the improvements on the tank are a big bonus.  Confident of his new weapon, Neff shows it off as proudly as someone else might show off a new car.  “ I press this button and the laser fires and bingo we have the range.  You have to be careful with the laser though; you could blind someone if you hit them. “  Turing serious Neff continues, “ But a tank is not meant to be  a safety item anyway.  It is meant to kill the enemy and with this new weapon, I think we can do a better job at that.” The Fox 14 tank was nicknamed the Bro - Ken - Toy by its crew and for a logical reason they feel.  “ Bro “ is for PFC Jeffry Smith, the driver.  “ Ken “  is the first names of both Shields and Neff and “ Toy “  is the nickname for the loader, PFC Richard Coker.

Shields says with a grin, Coker is a short guy.  We started calling him Toy Tanker because he is so short and the name stuck

Neff who recently reenlisted as a tanker says, “ I like what I do. “  He believes If you like what you are doing you should stay in that line of work.

In modern combat situation accuracy counts.  This belief accounts for the importance of the M60 A3 improvements over the older M60A1.  The Soviets,  say Department of the Army officials,  have several medium tanks fielded.  Their T 54, T 55 and T 62 and T 72 are considered at least marginally superior primarily because of their advanced armor protection.

The introduction of the new main battle tank, the XM -1, is designed to offset this advantage through, say Department of the Army officials.

The Blackhorse

March 1981

Eaglehorse is first to test new sights.

In January of this year the Eaglehorse Squadron was the first squadron in the Regiment to receive the new tank thermal sight.  They fired at Wildflecken Training Area shortly after receiving the sights, and reports from the squadron are that the new sight is fantastic.

SFC Robert Davis, a platoon sergeant with Golf Troop, was on the new equipment team from Fort Knox that  brought the M60A3 to Europe in February 1979.  He has had quite a bit of experience with the sights as he has been working with them since November 1978.

The tanks were originally fitted with searchlight and during the retrofit these searchlight packages were removed and the tank thermal sight was put in it’s s place by fitting the sight to the turret,  “ The whole procedure took about 8 hours per vehicle, “ Davis said.

“ The team that conducted the retrofit was form the States and assisted by a team from Mainz.  They did an outstanding job of fitting and giving instruction on the sights,” said Davis.  The instruction included the standard operating procedures for the sights as well as troubleshooting and maintenance.

“ Due to other missions in the squadron it took about one month to refit the entire squadron and give our soldiers practical instruction, “ Davis said.

The reaction from the solders of the Eaglehorse after firing at Wildflecken was fantastic.  “ Our guys were highly motivated to train after using the sights because it is a lot simpler to use and easier and quicker to shoot, “ said Davis.  Davis is very confident in the new sights saying, “ I think it’s the best the Army has now or in the past. “

Although Davis found no disadvantages or frustration with the new sights, the squadron master gunner, SFC Roger Franklin said that the one frustration was setting up the ranges.  “ The sights were no problem as far as the tanks are concerned; the problem was setting up the range at Wildflecken, but when we go to Graf this summer I don’t  think we’ll have the same problem. “ said Franklin.

The general consensus, however, among the Eaglehorse soldiers is that the new thermal sights are great.  Said Franklin, “  The morale has never been better, the soldiers are really excited about the new sight and as far as a combat situation, we are ready now!”

August 2014
 
 


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