One Lucky Army Brigade Has Blasted 1 Million Rounds During Europe Training

news
Photo via DoD

Fort Carson soldiers have put up a series of startling statistics during six months of heavy training in Europe.


In the 180 days deployed, soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division have put in 153 days of training with allies and community engagements across a swath of the continent from the Baltic to the Black Sea. To supply the brigade's more than 4,000 troops, the unit's truckers have logged more than 100,000 highway miles.

After taking part in the biggest European training exercise for U.S. troops since the Cold War, which wrapped up in Germany last week, the brigade's troops had fired more than 1 million rounds from their pistols, rifles, machine guns, tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and artillery pieces.

"It has been absolutely tremendous," said the brigade's boss, Col. Christopher Norrie.

The colonel spoke to The Gazette by phone last week as his soldiers packed up their gear for yet another mock war, this time in Hungary. His soldiers had just fought mock battles alongside a full team of American allies, including the usual suspects from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and newer partners including Ukrainian tankers and Albanian infantry.

"We fired 7,000 rounds of artillery," Norrie said of the 10-day exercise. The unit also drilled with allied Air Forces and coordinated with a French command team.

"I think the dynamic here that was most interesting was the international environment."

With tensions on the rise across Europe fueled by an increasingly aggressive Russia led by President Vladimir Putin, the training has sent a clear message: Don't mess with the U.S. or its friends.

The brigade headed to the continent from Colorado Springs in January, bringing more than 2,000 tanks, trucks and artillery pieces across the Atlantic by ship. The goal was to demonstrate how quickly a U.S.-based unit could be ready to fight overseas.

After gathering in Poland, the unit spread out from Estonia to Bulgaria.

Moving the unit across the vast expanse of Europe showed how quickly its soldiers could show up for battle. The training exercises that followed have shown how they can win the fight, Norrie said.

"We view deterrence as presence plus lethality," Norrie said.

At a German training area, the brigade's M-1 tanks proved dominant in a simulated war that included traditional combat and modern-day threats including a cyberattack.

"We seized seven objectives in 48 hours," Norrie said.

Large-scale tank training has been a rarity for the Army and 3rd Brigade in recent years. Since 2001, the unit has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its tanks and other heavily armored rigs were parked as its soldiers fought as infantry against insurgent groups.

Now, the Army is focused on its ability to take on "near-peer" enemies, like Russia and China.

That explains the abundance of training rounds fired by the brigade - numbers unheard of in recent years as the Pentagon tightened its belt to deal with budget cuts.

Having the unit overseas also allowed the 3rd Brigade to practice working with allies.

"There are things we need to improve, things our allies need to improve and things we are very good at," he said.

Norrie said his unit was successful in bridging language and cultural barriers thanks to liaison teams. The unit put its troops in the headquarters of allied forces and the other nations reciprocated, creating a solution for problems as they arose.

He said cooperation was also fueled by having a clear common goal.

"That shared interest of expressing the will of the alliance, it's a very powerful motivator," he said.

The training for the brigade is also proceeding at a pace unseen outside wartime.

After wrapping up the training in Germany, tank crews were busy washing mud off their tracks and heading out for training in Hungary.

The brigade, which will head back to Fort Carson in about three months, has become expert at shipping gear across the continent.

"We have done 180 different rail movements throughout Europe," Norrie said.

The pounding pace of the unit's work would be enough to grind down even the most veteran of soldiers.

But Norrie said it has actually had the opposite effect.

Instead of dragging, 3rd Brigade soldiers are walking taller, he said. The platoons, companies and battalions have become close-knit families during weeks of intense work.

Mechanics have set records for the number of vehicles available for war despite their heavy use. Gunnery scores have gone sky-high as soldiers hone their skills, he said.

Norrie said the brigade has the swagger of an undefeated team.

"If you see our soldiers they are so proud of what they have done," he said.

———

©2017 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

WATCH NEXT:

Pictured left to right: Pedro Pascal ("Catfish"), Garrett Hedlund ("Ben"), Charlie Hunnam ("Ironhead"), and Ben Affleck ("Redfly") Photo Courtesy of Netflix

A new trailer for Netflix's Triple Frontier dropped last week, and it looks like a gritty mash-up of post-9/11 war dramas Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker and crime thrillers Narcos and The Town.

Read More Show Less
Army Sgt. Daniel Cowart gets a hug from then-Dallas Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty. Photo: Department of Defense

The Distinguished Service Cross was made for guys like Sgt. Daniel Cowart, who literally tackled and "engaged...in hand to hand combat" a man wearing a suicide vest while he was on patrol in Iraq.

So it's no wonder he's having his Silver Star upgraded to the second-highest military award.

Read More Show Less
A small unmanned aerial vehicle built by service academy cadets is shown here flying above ground. This type of small UAV was used by cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, during a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-sponsored competition at Camp Roberts, California, April 23-25, 2017. During the competition, cadets and midshipmen controlled small UAVs in "swarm" formations to guard territory on the ground at Camp Roberts. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Drones have been used in conflicts across the globe and will play an even more important role in the future of warfare. But, the future of drones in combat will be different than what we have seen before.

The U.S. military can set itself apart from others by embracing autonomous drone warfare through swarming — attacking an enemy from multiple directions through dispersed and pulsing attacks. There is already work being done in this area: The U.S. military tested its own drone swarm in 2017, and the UK announced this week it would fund research into drone swarms that could potentially overwhelm enemy air defenses.

I propose we look to the amoeba, a single-celled organism, as a model for autonomous drones in swarm warfare. If we were to use the amoeba as this model, then we could mimic how the organism propels itself by changing the structure of its body with the purpose of swarming and destroying an enemy.

Read More Show Less
Soldiers from 4th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment "Dark Horse," 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, are escorted by observer controllers from the U.S. Army Operational Test Command after completing field testing of the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) Sept. 24, 2018. (U.S. Army/Maj. Carson Petry)

The Army has awarded a $575 million contract to BAE Systems for the initial production of its replacement for the M113 armored personnel carriers the service has been rocking downrange since the Vietnam War.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump has formally outlined how his administration plans to stand up the Space Force as the sixth U.S. military service – if Congress approves.

On Tuesday, Trump signed a directive that calls for the Defense Department to submit a proposal to Congress that would make Space Force fall under Department of the Air Force, a senior administration official said.

Read More Show Less