Armor soldiers and cavalry troopers must thrive in conditions of ambiguity and uncertainty, seeking opportunities to seize, retain and exploit the initiative with the goal of preserving freedom of action for friendly forces while denying options to the enemy.
Soldiers rarely come to the Army instinctively knowing how to accomplish all this. It requires tutelage to transform men and women into armor warriors, to instill the skill and drive required for success. Like every other part of the Army, success means turning people into teams.
In his first message as the 40th chief of staff of the Army on Aug. 12, 2019, Gen. James McConville wrote, “People are always my No. 1 priority: Our Army’s people are our greatest strength and our most important weapon system. Our people are our Soldiers, Family members, Department of the Army Civilians, and Soldiers for Life (retirees, and veterans). We must take care of our people and treat each other with dignity and respect. It is our people who will deliver on our readiness, modernization and reform efforts.”
He followed this up with the release of the Army People Strategy, which states, “We will build cohesive teams for the Joint Force by maximizing the talents of our People, the Army’s greatest strength and most important weapon system.”
Enabling the Vision
The U.S. Army Armor School at Fort Benning, Georgia, developed a plan of action to enable this vision. The armor branch is following that track, focused on being home to the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped and most lethal tankers and scouts. It does this with a focus on people, striving to mold civilians into the world’s best armor and cavalry men and women.
The school’s primary purpose is to support the operating force by providing training, doctrine and leader development to enable the warfighter to win in any environment. We developed a campaign plan to create unity of effort by outlining what the school must do to enable Army readiness and prepare soldiers and leaders for large-scale combat operations.
Quite simply, the Armor School enables McConville’s top priority by developing better soldiers, better leaders, better mounted capabilities for the future force and branch advocacy to recruit the best and brightest civilians. As McConville said, “No matter how much technology we develop, soldiers will always remain the centerpiece of our Army. We equip people, we don’t man equipment, and that philosophy will not change.”
The transition from civilian to soldier can be daunting. Implementation in 2019 of a 22-week One-Station Unit Training program eased the process. This initial entry program transforms civilian volunteers into professional soldiers. Graduates become disciplined, fit, acculturated and combat ready.
Training to Contribute
Better soldiers are created by using two programs of instruction—armor crewman and cavalry scout—and graduates learn how to be part of a winning team, ready to contribute to their unit’s success on Day One.
Men and women who graduate from the 19K MOS training for armored crewman have a high degree of knowledge pertaining to operations, gunnery skills and maintenance of the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank. They possess individual skills required to effectively acquire and engage targets with the loader’s machine gun. They can assist the tank commander and gunner by scanning and identifying targets for engagement and can operate communications equipment and ensure it functions properly. They can also tactically maneuver their vehicle and identify covered and concealed positions to enable the crew to engage the enemy.
The 19D MOS training program creates cavalry scouts who understand the fundamentals of reconnaissance and security. Graduates possess the individual skills required to navigate with stealth through terrain to close with and report on enemy units. They are proficient in the use of indirect fires and with analog and digital reporting systems. Cavalry scout training graduates also learn to serve as drivers for the Stryker combat vehicle and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. They can also do this to standard under adverse conditions.
A strategic outcome of the 2020 Army People Strategy is a professional Army. It says: “The Army is a profession, a highly expert, certified and credentialed force resulting from years of increasingly rigorous training and education. Its members are morally centered, retaining the trust and confidence of both the American people and each other. Army professionals are people of character, presence and intellect, committed to reflective practice and continuous learning. They share a powerful and enduring identity as lifelong members of the Army team.”
The Armor Basic Officer Leader Course is a program designed to enable newly commissioned lieutenants to transition into the Army profession. The 19-week training program produces armor lieutenants who are bold, aggressive, resourceful and adaptive leaders capable of leading tank and scout platoons in any environment.
The course creates better junior leaders by ensuring graduates can make decisions, direct, lead and assess operations effectively at the platoon level through multiple, rigorous repetitions and sets. Graduates are proficient in doctrinal, technical and administrative tasks associated with the tank platoon and knowledgeable in the art and science of armor and cavalry formations, employing weapon systems and integrating assets to close with and destroy the enemy. They can plan operations and analyze tactical situations, disseminate and filter information, and employ the full capabilities of the platoon’s equipment. Well versed in enemy organizations, doctrine and equipment, graduates comprehend mission and commander’s intent during decentralized operations to fight and win on the battlefield.
The Armor School also has 13 functional courses designed to build leader proficiency and develop professionalism in NCOs and officers. Programs range from technical proficiency to organizational planning. There are also courses designed to build platform mastery on the Abrams tank, Bradley and Stryker. Each functional course enhances student intellect and increases the capabilities of the overall force.
Better Mounted Capabilities
During AUSA Now, the virtual 2020 Annual Meeting of the Association of the U.S Army, McConville called for action. “The time has come for transformational change to build the Army we need for the future, [because] winning matters. When the nation calls on the Army, we don’t go to participate. We don’t go to try hard. We go to win. There is no second place or honorable mention in combat,” McConville said.
The Armor School develops doctrine and works with the U.S. Army Futures Command to develop capabilities of the future maneuver force and optimize capabilities (platform and organizational) for the mounted force. It also assesses the use of technology in support of cross-domain maneuver through the expertise of armor professionals. Technological improvements include ammunition upgrades, vehicle improvements, fielding, modifications to formations, as well as Total Army, joint and coalition interoperability.
Through its Army capabilities manager, the Armor School works to integrate capabilities across the joint force to enable armor and cavalry formations to win on any battlefield. This requires collaboration with stakeholders at Army headquarters, Futures Command, the U.S. Army Forces Command, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Centers of Excellence, and with program and product managers to identify, develop, field and assess holistic solutions to maintain capabilities overmatch, conduct cross-domain maneuver and defeat any adversary during large-scale combat.
Best and Brightest
A ready Army is another strategic outcome of the Army People Strategy. “The Army employs a range of technologies, incentives, programs and policies to identify the talents of its people and the talent demands of its organizations in timely, accurate, and granular detail,” the strategy says. “This allows for the use of data-driven analytical tools in its talent matching and alignment (employment and development) efforts, increasing overall workforce productivity. This granular data also drives a far more dynamic and accurate long-term workforce planning system, reducing unanticipated talent gaps and increasing overall Army readiness.”
Social media, person-to-person interaction and branch publications to attract the best and brightest civilians as well as enable retention are tools used by the Armor School to connect with soldiers, college students, high school students and citizens around the world. Social media provides a fast and engaging way to tell the armor story. It communicates the history of the Army and the armor branch, publicizes achievements and informs civilians’ decision to join the Army.
Person-to-person engagements on college campuses help attract high-quality cadets and encourage students to join Army ROTC, while branch publications communicate news and achievements to the entire Army.
These recruitment strategies attract top-performing civilians, retain talented soldiers and leaders, and enable the success of the Total Army.
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Brig. Gen. Kevin Admiral is the 52nd commandant/chief of armor at the U.S. Army Armor School, Fort Benning, Georgia. Previously, he served as deputy commanding general-maneuver, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, Colorado, and commander, Task Force Southeast, Paktiya, Afghanistan. He has served in armor, cavalry, mechanized infantry and Stryker formations. In combat, he commanded the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker Brigade Combat Team).
Maj. Demarius Thomas is the Armor Commandant’s Initiatives Group chief at the Armor School. He has served in armor, cavalry and infantry formations. Previous assignments include brigade operations officer, squadron executive officer, battalion operations officer and chief of operations, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. In combat, he served as strike director for the Combined Joint Force Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, Erbil Province, Iraq. He also commanded a rifle company in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and a tank platoon during the Surge in Iraq.