ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD — The Army officially commissioned its first new armored fighting vehicle in decades in a ceremony with the families of the two soldiers it is named for. The M10 Booker Combat Vehicle is named for two different soldiers named Booker, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient and an armor crewman who died fighting in the Iraq War veteran.

In a ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland on Thursday, families of the two soldiers had a chance to finally see the vehicle named that bears their name. The first Booker even came with a nickname, “Another Episode,” which was written on its barrel for the ceremony.

“Another Episode” was the nickname that Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker gave to the full-size M1 Abrams tank he commanded on the 3rd Infantry Division’s “Thunder Run” operation in Iraq. Booker picked that name in 2003, according to Army officials, as a reflection of his own service: after fighting in Desert Storm in 1991, his return to the region for the invasion of Iraq represented “another episode.” 

During an intense fight between his unit and an Iraqi tank unit, Booker climbed on top of his Abrams to provide communications and visual instructions to his and other U.S. tanks. He was killed in the encounter and received the Distinguished Service Cross.

Booker’s mother, Freddie Jackson, said she was surprised when her son joined the Army.

“He always said he was going to be in Hollywood. All of the honor that we have had – this is Hollywood to me,” Jackson said, surrounded by four generations of Bookers’ relatives. “This is truly a blessing. It’s a surprise. It’s an honor. It’s everything. I did not expect all this.”

The new M10 Booker is also dedicated to World War II Medal of Honor recipient Pvt. Robert D. Booker, an infantry soldier killed in 1943.

Families of both men were on hand at Aberdeen Thursday to see “Another Episode” officially christened as the Army’s first operational M10.

“We’re certain that the M10 combat vehicle will honor the legacy of two distinguished soldiers, one from the armor community and the other from the infantry,” said Brig. Gen Geoffrey Norman, director of the next generation combat vehicle cross functional team. “The M10 provides the mobile protected firepower needed today and what our Army needs to fight and win in the future.” 

A World War II Medal of Honor

Rose Hirsch, Robert’s sister, told reporters that she still remembered the Sunday in 1943 that her family received the news of her brother’s passing. She was 10 years old and her older brother, who was one of eight siblings, was assigned to the Army’s 133 Infantry Regiment and fought with Allied forces in Tunisia. 

Doug Bush, the Army’s acquisition chief, recalled Robert Booker’s heroics Thursday.

“Despite this hail of bullets, Pvt. Booker crossed nearly 200 yards of open field, the length of two football fields, carrying a machine gun and a box of ammunition. Once he reached his intended location, Pvt. Booker set up his machine gun and began firing on them,” said Bush. “Before he died, however, Pvt. Booker continued to encourage his squad and helped direct their fire.”

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1944.

Both Hersch and Jackson received the Silver Medallion of the Order of Saint George which honors the Army’s best tankers and cavalrymen. 

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Glenn A. Dean III, the program executive officer with Ground Combat Systems and U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Geoffrey A. Norman, the director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, presents Rosella Hirsch, the sister of the late Army Pvt. Robert D. Booker, and Freddie Jackson, the mother of the late Army Staff Sgt. Stevon Booker, with the Silver Medallion of the Order of Saint George, on Booker’s behalf, during an awards ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Ground, in Aberdeen, Md., April 18, 2024. Pvt. Booker, a Medal of Honor recipient, and infantryman, assigned to the 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, during World War II, was recognized for his honorable service to Armor and Cavalry and hereby admitted as a Distinguished Knight in the Order of St. George Silver Medallion. In 1986, the United States Cavalry and Armor Association established the Honorable Order of St. George to recognize the very best tankers and cavalrymen among its members.  (U.S. Army photo by Christopher Kaufmann)
Maj. Gen. Glenn A. Dean III and Army Brig. Gen. Geoffrey A. Norman present Rosella Hirsch, the sister of the late Army Pvt. Robert D. Booker, and Freddie Jackson, the mother of the late Army Staff Sgt. Stevon Booker, with the Silver Medallion of the Order of Saint George, on Booker’s behalf, during an awards ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Ground, in Aberdeen, Md., April 18, 2024. Army photo by Christopher Kaufmann.

“It’s fittingly named as well after a noncommissioned officer and a junior enlisted soldier. You are the strength in the heart of the armor and infantry professionals and infantry branches,” said

Retired Brig Gen. Andy Hilmes, Stevon’s company commander in April 2003, shared memories of Stevon. The soldier, he said, “looked, acted and sounded like the Abrams tank that he commanded.” Stevon enlisted in the Army in 1987 and fought in Operation Desert Storm and then in Iraq where he served with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 164th armored battalion.

“When his machine gun malfunctioned, Staff Sgt Booker disregarded his personal safety and took a position, exposed prone on the top of his tank, engaging the enemy with his personal weapon,” Bush said.

Stevon maintained communication with his platoon and protected their flank for five miles while exposed. He was shot several times and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Africa photo
A soldier shows Rose Hirsch, the sister of Pvt. Robert Booker, a Medal of Honor recipient from WWII who inspired the name for the Army’s newest M10 Booker combat vehicle.

“Steve’s redundancy was his final gift to all of us,” Hilmes said. Up until the firefight that killed Stevon, Hilmes said he was committed to getting his soldiers the training reps and sets needed to keep their skills sharp and his soldiers safe.

Designed as ‘a sportscar Abrams’

The M10 Booker combat vehicle was conceived of as a more compact and maneuverable vehicle than the M1 Abrams main battle tank. Rather than lumber through a battlefield engaging with other armor, the Booker is designed to move quickly with light infantry and airborne units, bridging the gap in the armored fleet between the Abrams and the M1126 Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle. 

“It’s like a sportscar Abrams,” Bush said, adding that soldiers who are trained with Abrams tanks will not see much of a difference. 

“Those of us who were on a 105mm- gun armed Abrams, it looks exactly the same inside,” Bush said. 

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“The intent is to support lighter infantry formations who usually don’t move with as much heavy equipment,” Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean from the Army’s PEO combat systems told reporters after the ceremony. “Heavy formations like the Third Infantry Division, they take a little longer to get to the combat theater but they come with massive combat power when they arrive. Our lighter formations get there very, very quickly, but they don’t have quite the volume of firepower and this tremendously increases the amount of firepower available.”

The M10’s lightweight design was also intended to make logistics easier, a major concern as the Army considers future conflict over the vast distances of the Asia Pacific region.

“When we’re thinking about the Pacific, for example, a vehicle you can get there quickly on an island without a big, long tail,” Bush told reporters. With the M10 Booker, “if you put this on an aircraft, you can have it there within hours.”

Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne will be the first unit to receive the new M10 combat vehicle this summer. These soldiers will get familiarization training before the M10 Booker’s undergo operational tests, where units will go out to the field, perform combat tactical tasks for observations by the Army’s operational test command.

The Army also will do maneuver training at Fort Liberty, North Carolina and 3rd Infantry Division soldiers at Fort Stewart, Georgia will run their gunnery training with the M10s.

“The Army will be asked the question by the Director of Operational Test whether the vehicle is safe, suitable, effective and supportable. If the answer to all those things is yes, then that first test company becomes the first combat company equipped,” Dean said.

With the next few months of rigorous testing with soldiers, the Army expects there will be things to fix.

“There’s always glitches on new vehicles,” Bush said. “That’s part of the system and you want to find it now and you need real soldiers operating it to find it. No one will break a vehicle like Army soldiers.”

Production will begin with one Booker per month and grow to between roughly 20 and 30 each year. Bush said it will take the Army around 10 years to reach the production contract’s final number of 350 Bookers.

The logistics tail compared to an Abrams tank is much less, meaning it uses less fuel and is easier to move, according to Bush.

Dean said it takes an hour or two of training to get soldiers coming from other vehicles familiar with the Booker’s systems.

The differences are the driver’s position and learning maintenance on a new engine but “actual operation,” is a “very easy transition for a qualified armored soldier.”

But… is it a ‘tank’?

“I was raised to not discuss two things in public which were religion and politics,” Dean told Task & Purpose. “You’ve asked a religious question.”

“It’s a light tank when you look at it, but its function on the battlefield – its more traditional term would be assault gun,” Bush said. “We’re America’s Army so if people want to call it a tank, I’m fine with it.”

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