1st Armored Division soldiers named Army’s Best Scouts

1st Armored Division soldiers named Army’s Best Scouts

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Greetings from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), our Army’s association for education and professional development, and a major supporter of the Army's Soldier for Life efforts.

The 3rd Biannual Gainey Cup Competition began May 1 at Fort Benning, Ga., with 24 six-man scout squads competing to be the best of the best.

The grueling three-day competition is designed to fully test and identify the best scout squads from our Army and international competitors.

Team 5 from 1st Armored Division’s 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment (Blackhawks,) are presented a plaque and trophy for earning first place in the 2017 Gainey Cup competition. (Photo by Patrick Albright)

Winning this year’s competition was the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment (Blackhawks).

Second place in the competition was the 3rd Infantry Division’s 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, and third place honors went to the 35th Infantry Division’s 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment.

The breakdown of the 24 teams competing in the competition consisted of 17 teams from the Regular Army, three teams from the Army National Guard, and four international teams from the Netherlands, Great Britain and two teams from Canada.

The Gainey Cup competition is held the first week in May every two years.

This year’s competition physically and mentally challenged all the competing squads by testing their knowledge, tactical competence, and fortitude in the fundamentals of reconnaissance and security operations.

By design, the Gainey Cup competition brings reconnaissance teams together from across the Army and select international partners to showcase the mastery of their profession while building camaraderie and esprit de corps among teams and nations.

The roots of cavalry and reconnaissance operations dates back to December 1776, when the Continental Congress authorized the 1st Regiment Light Dragoons for George Washington’s Continental Army.

Today, these scout teams perform reconnaissance and security missions operating close to enemy positions to gain battlefield intelligence for the commander.

This modern day competition is named after retired Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey who served 33 years in the Army as a cavalry scout.

Gainey served as the first senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, retiring from the Army in 2008.

The first Gainey Cup competition was held in 2013, with the second in 2015.

The Gainey Cup competition challenges the competing teams in the performance of their many battlefield tasks. The most critical tasks included call for fire, land navigation, route recon, communications, area recon and observation post operations.

The team from the 1st Armored Division performed consistently well in all of these “bread and butter” tasks.

In a competition of this caliber, you cannot fail in the performance of key and essential tasks.

Additionally, there were dozens of warrior skills, range firing tasks and physical challenges to further separate the best from the rest.

Weather throughout the competition was a factor with two days of heavy rain and a tornado warning. Thus a challenging course became even more interesting and fun.

Fortunately, the tornado warning occurred on Monday and it did not slow down the competition, according to the head of the Army’s reconnaissance and armor training.

“It didn’t affect the event at all, other than the participants at some point had to take cover under a hard structure,” said Col. Thomas Feltey, commander of the 316th Cavalry Brigade.

All the team members focused on motivating each individual in their respective squads throughout the competition.

Some of the most challenging tasks included a “call for fire” where competitors struggled with target location errors, failing to consider the G-M angle and proper map reading.

Some of the competing teams struggled on the area reconnaissance lane due to a lack of attention to detail, failure to follow provided guidance, and failure to use doctrinal report formats that were provided to each team.

The recon run challenged competing squads to collect and remember critical route information over a 3.5-mile course while the run provided a tough physical challenge.

Those teams who had the opportunity to train on an obstacle type course prior to the competition were evident during the negotiation of the obstacle course on the Army National Guard’s Camp Butler.

Obstacles like the “tough one,” “inverted wall,” “skyscraper,” and the “weaver” were significantly challenging for some teams.

The stress shoot lane was one of the spectator- friendly events that enabled visitors to get close enough to the competitors to feel their pain and determination.

Getting to the stress shoot firing line was part of the challenge of this event where each squad was evaluated as individuals.

Wearing body armor and carrying their weapon, getting over an inverted wall, crossing an area obstacle on a rope and climbing a rope into a second story building to engage targets physically challenged each individual in the squad.

The collective performance of the individuals was used to determine an overall squad score for this stress shoot event.

For some of the competitors, vehicle identification as part of reporting reconnaissance information was a significant challenge.

In addition to the vehicle identification challenges, the written exam on scout and reconnaissance skills was tough and thoroughly challenged all of the teams.

Out of the 24 teams in the competition, only one is first and is honored with the title “Best Scouts in the Army.”

“All of the participants are the winners of the individual unit competitions back home,” Feltey said, “and the ultimate ‘Best Scouts’ will return home with bragging rights and a great case for promotion.”

All of the teams performed very well in the competition, clearly representing their units with their organizational patches proudly worn on their sleeve, and the occasional shout of a unit motto when looking to motivate the squad or the audience.

Talking with the winning team on their preparation strategy for the competition, the scouts reported they spent approximately the last two months preparing for the competition.

All the soldiers in the squad were from the same troop in the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, which they reported was one of their strengths for working together for a long period of time.

Lt. Gen. Sean B. McFarland, deputy commanding general and chief of staff for the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, presented the awards to the top three winning squads.

In addition to recognizing the top three teams, the 1st Armored Division Team members were knighted and presented the Order of Saint George by Maj. Gen. (Retired) Terry L. Tucker, 38th president of the United States Cavalry and Armor Association.

One of the greatest benefits of this competition: the soldiers competing learned what it takes to attain excellence in their profession.

With all of the personal dedication and commitment in preparing for this competition and having the opportunity to compete against other teams of their caliber, provided a rare training opportunity for these young and future leaders.

The knowledge and wisdom these soldiers take back to their units will make our Army better for the next generation to follow.

These professional development opportunities are occurring every day all around the Army and across the nation.

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