News: Vehicle recovery team keeps tanks in the fight
Story by Sgt. Richard Andrade
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. – While on a mission in support of the Network Integration Evaluation, 12.2, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., an M1A2 Abrams Tank encountered one of its worst enemies, soft sand.
Just after dawn, soldiers assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, based out of Fort Bliss, Texas, were on the move from one attack position to another during an assault along the sprawling sand dunes of White Sands.
While maneuvering around a dune, loose sand packed into the space where the sprocket meets the end connector of the tank's left track causing it to completely separate. Once out of place, it caused damage to the track pads and the outside of the tank. Fortunately, the mission was not over for the tank and its crew members.
Riding alongside the formation of M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicles, was an M88 full-tracked, armored vehicle. It is designed to recover damaged vehicles while under fire. It is one of the largest recovery vehicles in the Army's inventory and the primary recovery support for the Abrams tank. The main winch is used to drag a disabled tracked vehicle or one stuck in mud to a safe area where it could be towed or driven away.
Vehicle recovery is an essential part to a company, especially one with tracked vehicles. When they heard of a incapacitated tank, the vehicle recovery team immediately sprang into action.
“That usually isn't a good thing, so we stopped," said Spc. Justin Guinan, of Jefferson, Ore., an M1A2 Abrams tank system maintainer, assigned to Company D, 1-6 Inf., 2nd HBCT, 1AD. "I dismounted and realized it had 'thrown track,'” he said.
The mechanics and crew members of the downed tank pulled together to recover the vehicle. The soldiers manually separated the damaged track from the tank.
Working under the hot sun, the soldiers did what needed to be done and drinking water frequently, hooked up the disabled vtank to the M88 recovery vehicle and towed it to a safe area where it could be repaired.
For the amount of damage done to the tank, the recovery went extremely fast, said Guinan. As an Abrams tank system maintainer he has seen this type of damage done to a tank before.
“This recovery mission took about six hours, the last one took over 14,” said Guinan. “The last mission took longer because we had never seen anything like that before, this time around we knew what we had to do and with the right tools we were able to accomplish the mission.”
“We got the vehicle to where it needs to be and once the parts arrive, we will fix it and put it back in the fight,” said Sgt. Daniel Torres, of Findlay, Ohio, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle system maintainer assigned to Company E, 1-6 Inf., 2nd HBCT, 1AD
Even though it was a time-consuming process the mission went pretty good, said Torres.
Pvt. Forrest Boswell, of Albany, Ore., an armor crewman assigned to Company D, 1-6 Inf., 2nd HBCT, 1AD, was one of the crew members of the disabled tank. He took the day's actions as a learning experience and said if he were to be in the same situation in the future, he would know just what to do.
At the end of the recovery process and when the tank was in a safe place to be worked on, Boswell said he was grateful for the mechanics' quick response to the situation.
“The mechanics were 100 percent helpful; they really saved the day,” said Boswell. "We could not do our job without them,” he said.