As 4th Infantry Division soldiers of Battle Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, have spent the week competing in the Nordic Tank Challenge with five other countries, a brotherhood has arisen among the participating tank crews.
The bond carries over what the U.S. contingent brought to the competition, which ended today and hosted by the Danish 1st Armored Battalion, Jutland Dragoons Regiment, at Holstebro Barracks, Dragonkasernen, Denmark.
“We arrived here with the highest proficiency and longevity out of all the platoons in the Iron Brigade’s battalions,” said Army 1st Lt. Elisha Gueli, the platoon leader of the two competing Battle Company tank crews. “We have proven ourselves through various live-fire exercises and missions, and no one operates in a more close-knit fashion than we do.”
Gueli, a Windsor, Virginia, native, said the camaraderie among the company’s crews has made it easy for the U.S. team to form similar bonds with the tank challenge crews from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden.
“We’re very big on teamwork, everybody does their part. Nobody is an individual” on a tank, Gueli said.
The lieutenant added that the Nordic Tank Challenge plays into that natural sense of teamwork, but at an international level.
Training With NATO Partners
“The Challenge itself is really about training with our NATO allies and partners,” Gueli said. “The element of competition is there just to spur the training on itself. What we’re seeking to do here is build those bonds and understand how each other operates. What equipment each different country has, how they use it. … Learning little things like that just makes us all better in the end.”
Gueli said one difference in how U.S. Army tank crews operate versus their European counterparts is that U.S. soldiers are continuously moved to new duty positions. Conversely, some of the other Nordic Tank Challenge crews stay in one specific job for years, mastering that job.
“Both are good practices that make us proficient” in different ways, Gueli said.
One benefit of the tank challenge for the U.S. crews is they have been given the opportunity to cross-train on the Danish Leopard 2A5 DK main battle tank. The “Leo” differs from the U.S. M1A2 Abrams main battle tank.
“The electrical turrets that it has is different from our tanks,” said Army Spc. Alexander Kefford, a tank loader. “As well as the ready racks and the diesel engine it runs on.”
This sort of combined training in a competitive environment helps strengthen all the forces.
“If we were ever to gear up and prepare for a mission and combine our forces, I think it’s beneficial for us to be able to use other countries’ tanks,” Kefford said. “The more you learn, the more universal you can be.”