Chief of Armor’s Hatch: Increasing Our Momentum

It’s my distinct honor and privilege to serve as the 49th Chief of Armor. We are approaching our 75th year as an armored force, as our foundation was established July 10, 1940, at Fort Knox, KY. We are again at a pivotal time as we transition out of 13 years of conflict and are faced with ongoing situations in the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific. The need for our armored force is increasing and is placing a premium on formations highly capable in decisive-action environments. The great work being done at our combat training centers is helping us regain our core fundamentals, but we must increase our momentum. This edition of ARMOR contains many thought-provoking manuscripts discussing armored warfare, and I encourage our readers to reinvigorate their interest in our continued efforts to Forge the Thunderbolt!

Regardless of the mission or the challenges of the environment, Armor and Cavalry Soldiers and leaders must remain well-trained, -led and -equipped, and possess the skills and knowledge to close with and destroy the enemy using fire, maneuver and shock effect. It is important that we recognize this – not as a parochial statement, rather as a capability we bring as part of the combined-arms team. We only need to look at the Israeli experience in 2006 to see the effects of a force that allowed their mounted decisive offensive-maneuver skills to atrophy. They regained these skills by focusing on their fundamental tasks and getting as many repetitions through intensive training.

The cornerstone of armored-warfare fundamentals are set in our ability to shoot, move, communicate and sustain. These skills are manifested in our gunnery programs, knowledge of sustainment operations and what I call “fighting from the hatch.” The following descriptions are meant to stimulate thought on how to achieve mastery of armored force decisive-action fundamentals that many organizations have already embarked on.

  • Gunnery: Proficiency in conducting gunnery operations has deteriorated due to stability-focused operations. We must place a premium on leaders becoming proficient in planning and training gunnery densities from small arms through “big bullets” and on unit standardization through gunnery standard-operating procedures and sabot academies. We must fight to conduct two gunnery cycles per year to build our competencies and maintain our skills. In concert with our gunnery frequency, we must emphasize battle-roster stability and keep tank commander / gunner combinations together. Too often in the past, we have succumbed to personnel demands that disrupted unit readiness leading up to gunneries and, as importantly, training exercises. Finally, we must invest in our master-gunner program, get our very best noncommissioned officers (NCOs) to the Master Gunner Course and provide them the appropriate amount of time in position to develop the expertise within the formations.
  • Sustainment: Sustainment operations are the lifeblood of armored warfare, and we must master the art and science of sustaining continuous operations. The impact of forward operating base (FOB)-based operations depleted the armored force’s knowledge of essential skills in maintenance, logistic estimates and planning. Examples of areas in which to focus our efforts are understanding the difference between a refuel-on-the-move vs. a refuel operation; how to conduct unit maintenance collection point operations; and establishing required supply rates or controlled supply rates for ammunition. The Armor School – in concert with Combined Arms Support Command – is leading an effort to establish a Maneuver Leaders Maintenance Course to develop the requisite knowledge in our maneuver force.
  • Fighting from the hatch: Armored warfare is characterized by high-tempo operations through the depth of an area of operations. Synchronization of fires and enablers is constantly assessed and demands an ability to visualize, assess and direct an immense amount of information and activity from the “turret.” FOB-based operations created an Army experienced in stability operations; however, we have fostered an environment of independent operations governed in many instances by the infamous one-page concept of operations at the expense of good troop-leading procedures. The ability to issue a fragmentary order “over the net” is not a skill we practice often, but it will be reintroduced at the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course and Armor Basic Officer Leadership Course. Command-and-control is a fundamental task that mounted leaders must master that only comes through training and experience – we must fight for as many “reps” as we can get.

The armored force is well postured to regain a mastery of decisive-action fundamentals because of our great leaders’ willingness to learn. Leadership is what will always decide the day, and your commitment to unit, Soldier and self-betterment will make the difference on the next battlefield. I’m very encouraged and confident in our way ahead because of the great young officers and NCOs I see leading our Soldiers every day.

There are ongoing discussions on how to posture formations to maintain overmatch with respect to organizational structures, equipping, manning and the vehicle platforms necessary to accomplish a dynamic mission set. In future Hatch articles, I will describe initiatives and force-design updates on the horizon. CSM Michael Clemens and I will be visiting units and combat training centers to ensure we hear from you and what we can do to continually improve our battle position!

Finally, I wish to pass on my sincerest condolences for the passing of great two Armor leaders: retired LTC Burt Boudinot and retired CSM Don Devine. Until we meet again on Fiddler’s Green...

Forge the Thunderbolt! Treat ‘Em Rough!

BG Scott McKean
Chief of Armor/Commandant
U.S. Army Armor School


1Wertz, Stephen A., “Joint Air Ground Integration Center,” Fires Journal, March 2012,

2Field Manual 6-20-30, Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for Fires Support for the Corps and Division Operations, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, U.S. Department of the Army, 1989.

3Sevalia, Roy, “Fighting Deep with Joint Fires,” Call Newsletters, 2003,.

4FORSCOM DIVARTY implementation order, FORSCOM headquarters, Fort Bragg, NC, April 9, 2014.

5Whitepaper, “Field Artillery Brigade/DIVARTY” (staffing version), U.S. Army Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, OK, 2014.