On command, tank platoons maneuver simultaneously and destroy the objective using mobility and firepower from their battle positions. Mission accomplishment is not solely based on the type of tank firing but also the crew members working inside. The Hellenic Tank Challenge 2021 officially began on Nov. 1 at Triantafyllides Camp, Greece. It consisted of five days of challenges, including a precision driving course, offensive operation live-fires, defensive operation live-fires, call for fire, range determination, medical evacuation, battle damage assessment and repair, pistol shooting and the tanker’s Olympics.
Company Commander Capt. Ashton Woodard, Charlie Company “Bandidos,” 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, is not only proud that his unit was chosen to represent the U.S. Army in the competition but also excited to both demonstrate the capabilities of American equipment and to showcase the training his Soldiers have received.
“We have the opportunity to build relationships and have healthy competition with our NATO allies,” Woodard said. “I think that this competition will do more than show who the best platoon is. I think it will build confidence in each other’s abilities.”
The Bandidos faced four Hellenic Army tank platoons with observers from Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Jordan, Israel and the United Arab Emirates watching the challenge daily.
The observers had the opportunity to witness the Hellenic Army firing the Leopard A2 tanks and the Bandidos firing the M1 Abrams tanks. The Abrams, a third-generation American main battle tank, provides a heavy force to be reckoned with.
“So my Soldiers have the opportunity to use M1A2 SEPV2 Abrams, and with the right crew, this tank can go anywhere on the battlefield,” Woodard said. “It can affect the enemy up to 4,000 meters with its main gun and have complete control over the terrain using its optics weapon systems.”
With those capabilities, both armies took their battlefield positions without hesitation in the first week of November at Petrochori Range. Digging deep in the dirt, tanks of both nations made tracks and fired upon command, sending 120mm and 7.62 rounds downrange.
From the outside, observers may think the most powerful weapon of a battle tank is the firepower behind a cannon. But members of a tank platoon know that the minds of the Soldiers and the crew’s cohesiveness within the tank are the most effective weapons needed in battle.
Each tank crew must operate as one, the tank commander, the gunner, the loader and the driver. Everyone has a role to fill within the tank to seize the objective. The Hellenic Tank Challenge doesn’t just determine who has the best tank but also who has the best tank crew.
For this determination, both armies participated in challenges where the crew members worked together under stress and time constraints to increase their cohesion, putting all their previous training to the test and reinforcing allied interoperability.
The precision driving course consisted of speed testing, braking and handling abrupt turns. The medical evacuation lane put team members in position to extract an injured crew member from inside the tank. The tank recovery, assessment and repair course placed crew members in a scenario where their tank was disabled, to which they had to work together to get the tank functional and back in action. The Pistol shooting course enabled crew members to move from mounted positions on top of the tanks to dismounted positions on the ground while keeping the target in sight. The last day of the competition was the Tanker’s Olympics, where crews participated in relay races, sprinting with equipment in hand to a designated area.
Each challenge provided training and experience to newer members of the tank crews and further refinement of veteran tankers’ skills.
Company 1st Sgt. Jeremy Bradley with Charlie Company “Bandidos,” 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division was proudly present for every event of the challenge.
“Watching my Soldiers compete here in Greece makes me extremely proud to be the company first sergeant,” Bradley said. “The amount of determination, training, teamwork that they put together as a company to support not only the platoon that’s competing in the challenge, but the preparation for battle to prove our interoperability capabilities and the lethality that the M1’s bring to the battlefield is amazing to watch.”
The soldiers participating in the challenge displayed a drive to perform to their best abilities. If one crew member fell, the others assisted him to his feet, pushing as a team even further. The challenge consisted of more than what a Leopard A2 or M1 Abrams can do on the battlefield, but also what the right crew members in the correct positions can accomplish together.
The Hellenic Army placed first as the challenge ended, standing on the podium with the Bandidos close by. Side by side, all soldiers stood together on the Petrochori Range, knowing what the other is capable of on the battlefield, having built trust in one and another.
Completing the Hellenic Tank Challenge 2021, all soldiers now have a reinforced sense of pride in being a tanker, honored in what they do and confident in their allies and their equipment. The relationships built with their tank crews will carry far beyond any competition.
Hellenic Tank Challenge 2021 is a competition under Atlantic Resolve that helps enable deterrence and defense against regional threats in Eastern Europe. Click here to learn more about Atlantic Resolve.
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Article by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Reynolds
Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Max Elliott