US Military Hosts the Sullivan Cup to find the best tank crew in the US Army. FORT RILEY, Kansas – Four Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, will represent the “Big Red One” at the annual Sullivan Cup Precision Gunnery Competition May 2-6 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Representing the division are Staff Sgt. Eric Engstrom II of Becket, Massachusetts; Sgt. Johnathan Alejandro of Pasadena, California; Pfc. Avery Randle of Monticello, Indiana; and Pvt. Logan Bontrager of Middlebury, Indiana.
The Sullivan Cup competition brings together the best tank crews from the U.S. Army and Marines, as well as select international partners, and tests them in tank crew maneuver, sustainment and gunnery skills.
“The Sullivan Cup is a competition named after Gen. (Gordon) Sullivan, who exemplified everything that an armored crewman should be,” Engstrom, the team’s tank commander, said. “It’s a competition to figure out who the best is. They bring everybody together in a friendly environment and, through a series of events, we compete against each other and see how we rank.”
Sullivan commanded the 1st Inf. Div. from July 1988 to July 1989 and later served as the 32nd U.S. Army chief of staff. Being selected to represent the Big Red One was no easy task for the team. After months of grueling exercises and training at Fort Riley, the crew was ranked among other teams throughout the division before a physical fitness test separated them from the rest.
“It’s a great feeling to be representing something so big,” Randle, the team’s loader, said. “It makes me feel proud of myself and it makes me happy that my family can see this and be proud of all of the things I’ve done.”
Following the selection, the team began to train in earnest for the challenges they would face at Fort Benning.
“We get support every day by our first sergeant,” Alejandro, the team’s gunner, said. “We meet up with him every morning at like (6 a.m.). It’s rough because it’s strenuous and the type of workouts that we’re doing are not the type of workouts we’re used to doing, but we know what we’re going up against so we’re excited for the challenge.”
Crew members said in order to be successful, they will have to work well together as a team, something the four have been doing for only a few months.
When the team first got together, “immediately we all fit in and worked pretty well together,” Bontrager, the team’s driver, said.
“We have a great chemistry,” Randle added. “I couldn’t have asked for a better crew.”
Each team member is motivated by different factors to do their best. Bontrager said the competition will help steer his Army career in the right direction, while Alejandro wants to set a positive example for his children.
“I want my kids to look back and be like ‘my daddy worked hard, and these are some of the things he did,’” he said. “I’m trying to give back and show my kids that when you work hard good things happen.”
Engstrom and his team received the full support of their leaders since they began down the road to the Sullivan Cup and expressed how they want to make the division proud.
“I want to represent Fort Riley and the Big Red One to the best of my ability,” Engstrom said. “I know that we’re going to get down there and have the opportunity to do great things and I want to achieve all of the goals that I have going down there.”
In the end, it’s a competition, and there is one thing the team really wants above all else.
“I want to win,” Engstrom said. “Why would I go if I didn’t want to win?”
Video Description Credit: Staff Sgt. Warren Wright
Video Credits: Sgt. Michael Grimm and Sgt. 1st Class Adam Fischman
Video Thumbnail Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy Photo Modified by ArmedForcesUpdate