News: 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team receives first of new tank fleet
Story by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hatten
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. - Mississippi National Guard maintenance personnel took delivery of the first six M1A2 SEP v.2 main battle tanks intended for the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team May 3 at the Mobilization And Training Equipment Site (MATES) at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center.
“The 155th ABCT was fielded 112 M3A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles last year and this year we were selected to get 58 of the latest Abrams tanks which are the M1A2 SEP v.2s, which will be replacing our M1A1 fleet which are all currently at MATES. This makes the 155th ABCT the only brigade combat team in the National Guard to receive both upgraded fleets,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jessie Lindsay, property book officer for the 155th ABCT.
The new tanks represent a leap forward in terms of lethality, survivability and ease of operation, as well as new maintenance procedures, which means that the mechanics need to be qualified on the machines before the crews receive them.
“Our goal is to have the maintenance personnel trained prior to their units drawing the tanks, so that the unit will have trained maintenance personnel available should there become a need,” said Abrams Field Maintenance NET Manager Mark Kastner. “We try to get maintenance training done first, so they can support their tankers when they get the new vehicles.”
Despite some obvious similarities, the M1A2 SEP v.2 is vastly different from the older M1A1 tanks, and the crews, maintenance and support personnel have a lot of work ahead, learning new systems, procedures and tactics which will maximize the combat power of the 155th ABCT.
“From the ground, the M1A2 SEP v.2 still looks like a tank that everybody's familiar with, but once you set foot in that turret, you're in an entirely different world than what these guys are used to seeing,” said Kastner. “These guys are coming off of the M1A1 heavy commons, and they're skipping about two generations of technological development, jumping into the latest and the greatest. The learning curve is pretty sharp, but every one of my instructors is a retired maintenance guy. It may be confusing at first but the new tank is actually more user-friendly and can do so many different things that the older version just was not capable of.”
After the maintenance personnel complete their new equipment training, the tank crews of the 155th ABCT will begin familiarization with the new vehicles as their units receive them.
“There will be several weeks of preparation and processing of the new vehicles,” said Lindsey. “We will be issuing the first 36 tanks in June to the gaining units who will kick off their NET training, with the remaining 22 tanks scheduled to be issued in August. In addition to the training, there will be a lot going on the supply and maintenance arenas, and the turn-in of the old M1A1 fleet is scheduled from May through August.”
As the new tanks arrive and get transferred to the gaining units, the operator new equipment training will kick off in earnest as the tankers learn the news systems and capabilities of their vehicles during annual training and weekend drills.
“Given the amount of information that has to be absorbed by the units, the operator training is going to take about a year, based on their regular training cycle,” said Kastner. “We'll begin training on their annual training time frame for this year, 2013, and it will continue through their drill periods for the rest of the year and into 2014. Then, around June or July of 2014, the entire training will culminate in a live fire gunnery exercise for the tankers to put their new equipment through its paces and use everything that they've learned over that time frame.”