The US Military sends a clear message in a artillery live fire exercise. TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas became the fourth state in the country to be issued the newly-manufactured M1A2 System Enhancement Package Version 2 Abrams tanks. Soldiers of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry Regiment received 15 of the advanced weapons systems May 31 at Fort Riley, where they spent the day performing inventory and system checks on the tanks.
“We were originally slated to receive M1A1 AIMS Abrams,” said Capt. Jonathan D. Bjorgaard, commander of Company D, of Emporia. “But at the last minute, the National Guard was authorized to receive an additional battalion set of the M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams this fiscal year.”
Competition between states to receive the tanks was fierce. Each was judged over a wide range of categories, but Kansas was ultimately selected.
“The CAB’s high readiness metrics and strength numbers definitely played a role in our selection,” said Bjorgaard.
With new equipment comes new training and a new group of instructors to educate Soldiers about the latest weapons in the Kansas arsenal. This team of instructors consists of retirees of both active-duty Army and National Guard Soldiers, all of whom are experienced tankers.
Jeff McCree, a veteran with 21 years of service as an active-duty tanker, is one of these instructors.
“When it comes to tanks, if it’s been broken or been done, we’ve done it,” said McCree. “We try to share our successes as well as our mistakes. We bring a lot of experience to the training.”
This group of trainers, based out of Michigan, will travel to Kansas to work side-by-side with Soldiers of the CAB for the next year, bringing them up to speed on the differences and improvements in the new tanks.
Externally, even an experienced observer would have trouble distinguishing the new M1A2 SEP v2 from its M1A1 predecessor, but according to McCree, the interiors are vastly different.
“It would take days to list the improvements,” said McCree. “Everything has been improved.”
One of the most noteworthy innovations of the SEP v2s is the new Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station system.
The CROWS II allows the tank commander to acquire and engage targets without exposing himself to enemy fire. On the previous M1A1 model, the tank commander could only perform this task by looking out of the hatch on the top of the tank, making himself vulnerable to enemy fire.
Spc. Gary Stone, a tank driver/loader with Company C, of Lenexa, is excited to use the CROWS II system for the first time.
“The new features are exceptional,” said Stone. “It helps you get situated faster and to be more efficient on the battlefield.
“I’m really looking forward to gunnery next year,” said Stone. “We’ll be performing multiple target engagements using the new CROWS II system. I can’t wait to find out how it’s going to work.”
In addition to the improved technology, the new condition of the equipment will make a difference in the quality of training for Soldiers this year.
“Our previous tanks had seen many years of use and were not always reliable, often interrupting training with system failures,” said Bjorgaard. “The new tanks will allow us to conduct better training as the reliability will be less of a concern.”
The CAB is expected to receive 14 additional M1A2 SEP v2 tanks this September, bringing their total count to 29.
“They are the most advanced ground weapons system in the Army’s arsenal,” said Bjorgaard. “We are honored and excited to have the opportunity to train with them.”
Video Description Credit: Spc. Jen Bjorgaard
Video Credit: Staff Sgt. Ricardo Hernandez-Arocho
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