Commandant's Hatch

by COL Paul J. Laughlin
Commandant, U.S. Army Armor School

Upon arriving into this job, it was evident that the Armor School remained immersed in the arduous process of reception, staging, onward movement and integration into the Maneuver Center of Excellence. Through the dedication of the MCoE and the Infantry School, they vigorously received our units upon our arrival at Fort Benning. Through a collaborative effort, brigades stood up, our Armor and Cavalry Soldiers and leaders began training, we improved facilities and ranges to increase capabilities, and we continued to update the doctrinal and organizational framework of our mounted force after more than a decade of war – all while honoring our heritage by establishing roots in a new location. The conditions were set for the Armor School’s continued onward movement and integration with our Infantry School counterparts, and I was humbled, honored and excited to lead the Armor School as we faced the year ahead.

Throughout the past year, our primary mission remained unchanged: train, educate and inspire Soldiers and leaders in the Army profession to be critical and creative thinkers, and develop the competence and confidence to close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver as part of a combined-arms team in a complex hybrid environment. We have continued to improve ways to accomplish this mission and, in large part, these improvements have come from being at Fort Benning. Maneuver training in Armor and Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Courses, and the Army Reconnaissance Course, now regularly incorporates multiple live and virtual elements of the combined-arms team, enabling our leaders and Soldiers to experience the true power of the combined-arms fight.

We’ve also increased opportunities for Armor Soldiers to attend Ranger School. We are continuing to implement the Army Learning Model into our courses to improve the quality of instruction for our Soldiers and leaders, as well as making the instructors’ experience more valuable when they return to a Forces Command unit. We have successfully opened the Good Hope Maneuver Training Area for ABOLC training, and ABOLC started tank gunnery at the Hastings Range Complex in April. We still have more ground to cover in these areas, but we are on track. The quality of Armor training is the best we have ever offered to our Soldiers at Fort Benning and continues to improve.

Another critical task in the onward movement of the branch is continuing to shape the future force. We have made considerable progress on several doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leader development, personnel and facilities, or DOTMLPF, initiatives. First, we are in the process of improving reconnaissance and security for all echelons and formations. To address the organizational shortcomings of our scout platoons’ ability to conduct doctrinal reconnaissance and security missions, we are strongly advocating the transition of all scout platoons across armored and Stryker brigade combat team formations to a configuration of six like vehicles with 36 total 19-series personnel. We, with our U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command capabilities managers, remain committed to developing a long-term solution to get our scouts under armor, and we acknowledge that the humvee and M-ATV are not suitable platforms.

Concerning mobile, protected, precision firepower, we are working with our partners in the defense industry to improve the current M1A2 System Enhancement Package’s Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS II) and increase engine technology to improve gas mileage, performance and reliability of our combat vehicles. In addition, we are aggressively pursuing acquisition of the new Sabot (M829E4) and Armor Multi-Purpose rounds to increase our firepower capabilities in the future. Finally, we are nearing completion of FM 3-96, The Armored Brigade Combat Team, and ATP 3-90.1, The Armor and Mechanized Infantry Company Team, manuals to ensure we maintain realistic, relevant and effective doctrine.

Over the past year, we’ve expanded efforts to implement and sustain Armor and Cavalry traditions and heritage at Fort Benning. Many of you will be glad to know that we have established a Fiddler’s Green on Fort Benning, where many of the artifacts from Fort Knox adorn the walls, so we will not forget that portion of our heritage. We conduct regular Stable Calls, which have become quite popular across the community. Our active role on the memorialization committee has ensured that Fort Benning reflects the character and heritage of our great Armor and Cavalry leaders and culture. We are opening new chapters of the Cavalry and Armor Association at Fort Benning and at West Point to ensure we connect to our past and properly inculcate new troopers with our unique elan.

Finally, we are hosting competitions that are gaining international attention and are showcasing what our tankers and scouts do best. However, the real benefit of the Sullivan and Gainey cups is that our overall force gains expertise in maneuver warfighting skills and pride in the Armor and Cavalry units they represent. This pride has carried over to the Armor School Facebook page, which has reached more than 5,000 “likes.” While entertaining, the real benefit is the informal and direct two-way feedback link it provides with the force, so keep sharing thoughts and helping to drive change across the DOTMLPF. Between this and the monthly Thunderbolt Blast, our connection to the force is strong and growing daily.

Sadly, the Army has called me to fill a new role, and this is my last note to you as the Chief of Armor. This has been a remarkable assignment, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of the amazing people who ensure success in training and combat throughout the mounted force. We’ve been able to improve training in our courses, improve our facilities and work on procuring the best possible equipment for our troopers and Soldiers. Most importantly, we’ve been able to safeguard and grow our heritage and traditions in a new location to ensure we remain mindful of our past. I sincerely appreciate the many active and retired senior officers and NCOs who assisted me with maintaining azimuth while here. It’s been an honor to serve as the 47th Chief of Armor. I look forward to getting back to the force and seeing you all out on the ranges and on the objective as you focus on combined-arms maneuver training. Until then, giddyup!

Forge the Thunderbolt!

47 out

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