News: ‘Dragon’ Battalion tank crew ready to pit themselves against the best in gunnery competition
Story by Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
FORT RILEY, Kan. - The best tank crews are able to perform all of their tasks, glamorous or not, at a very high level, said a 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division tank crew chief.
“A good crew does everything well,” 1st Lt. Nathan Shaffner, executive officer of Company D, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 1st Inf. Div. and an Atlanta native, said. “You still need to be able to maintain your tank, you still need to be physically fit, and you need to know all those basic Soldier skills to make that tank work. If you’re a great shot on the range but you’re always calling maintenance, you’re not a good crew.”
Shaffner and his crew will find out where they stand Army-wide as they compete this week (May 11-16) in the 2014 Sullivan Cup precision gunnery competition, hosted by the Maneuver Center of Excellence and the U.S. Army Armor School at Fort Benning, Ga., as the representatives from Fort Riley and the 1st Inf. Div. Less than twenty crews, including two Canadian crews, have been invited.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be able to go, and we’ve gotten a lot of compliments and encouragement from around the unit,” Spc. Jonathan Hagen, an ammunition loader with Company D, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt., and a Fennimore, Wis., native, said. “I’m not really nervous, I’m just excited to go.”
The competition is divided into two main phases. Phase 1 consists of three days of testing, covering warrior tasks and physical fitness, tactical crew tests in a simulator, and precision day and night gunnery.
After that, the four highest-scoring crews from Phase 1 will then be evaluated based on their performance in the most challenging engagements from the final day of competition.
“The only goal is to go out and do the best that we can,” Shaffner said. “I know that sounds clichéd, but I am not going to be upset if it’s first place or last place — as long as I know we left it all out there, as long as we gave everything. And I know we’re going to.”
Shaffner, Hagen, Sgt. Daniel Pilkington, and Pfc. William Chuzie — vehicle commander, loader, gunner, and driver, respectively — have only been together as a crew since February. All four deployed to the Horn of Africa with the “Dragon” Battalion from last summer through December.
The group has made rapid progress since coming together.
“We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we share that with the crew.”
Hagen said their strong affinity for one another and calmness under pressure has been noticed by leaders, and is likely one of the reasons they were chosen to represent the division at the competition.
“When things go wrong, we don’t get frustrated about it, we cheer each other up,” he said. “If you do bad on an engagement, just drop it, it’s over with, and move on to the next one and do your best.”
Those interested in following the competition as it unfolds this week can do so at its official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/sullivancup.
This work, ‘Dragon’ Battalion tank crew ready to pit themselves against the best in gunnery competition, by SGT Daniel Stoutamire, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.