From the Boresight Line: Abrams Training Assessment Course – Improving the Abrams Master-Gunner Candidate

Located within the fences of the Army National Guard’s Warrior Training Center (WTC) at Fort Benning, GA, is one of the Armor community’s most valuable master-gunner training resources. Since its establishment in 2012, the Abrams Training Assessment Course (ATAC) has provided quality training to active-duty Army, Marine and National Guard noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who aspire to be master gunners. The course cadre pride themselves on maintaining a high rate of success in preparing NCOs for the Abrams Master Gunner (AMG) Course, doing so by providing the most current and relevant lesson plans, maintaining top-notch training facilities and lining up course dates to prelude AMG. The instructors are all graduates of the Army’s AMG Course and are hand-selected by the WTC. If properly used, this two-week course can be an extremely valuable resource to the Armor community and will greatly increase the likelihood that your tank commander will return to you as a master gunner.

While the investment of additional time and money may not be appealing to some unit commanders, the potential upside certainly should be. Since Fiscal Year 2012, ATAC attendees have a master-gunner graduation rate of about 79 percent. While this may not appear significant, the course is constantly re-evaluating its curriculum to ensure that it is focusing on areas that master-gunner students struggle with most and that its lesson plans mimic those taught at AMG. Also, ATAC can be used as a final assessment of an NCO to ensure he has been adequately prepared for the follow-on AMG Course. In the event a student fails ATAC, he can immediately return to his unit for retraining or replacement rather than sacrificing the additional time at AMG and risking the same fate.

With today’s high operations tempo that includes deployments, reintegration periods and regeneration training cycles, time to dedicate to instilling master-gunner-level expertise into existing tank commanders can be elusive. AMG maintains several prerequisite skills an NCO must meet, and that must be assessed and confirmed by unit commanders prior to their attending the course. Recently, the course has waived certain prerequisites due to units not having time in their current schedule to execute certain training events (i.e., having planned and executed unit gunnery within 12 months of attending the course). A notable knowledge deficit that commonly accompanies these waivers is the inability to successfully execute Gunnery Skills Testing (GST). However, ATAC executes GST as part of its course curriculum, which not only refreshes potential AMG students on the required tasks but also provides them with a preview of how the test will be administered at the actual AMG Course. This can be an enormous service to any unit deployed or in the midst of an equipment reset that does not have the resources to provide proper GST training to its NCOs.

With the Army rapidly losing continuity in its technical experts, ATAC is a resource that the Armor community can use to help regenerate those experts efficiently. While the long-term solution to this problem remains with the armored units themselves – concerning their ability to execute the type of training that continually develops and maintains this expertise – ATAC can offer an interim solution to help fill the present gap. It is listed in the Army Training Requirements and Resources System as the Abrams Training Assessment Course.

Command teams or potential master-gunner students may contact the WTC for more information. WTC is located at Bldg. 4167 in Harmony Church, Fort Benning. WTC may also be reached by phone at DSN 835-4813. Unit representatives may contact the Abrams Master Gunner Branch at DSN 620-7911.

By incorporating this remarkable training resource into the active-duty Armor force, we can continue to maintain the U.S. Army’s armored force as the most lethal on the battlefield.