Home Return to Home Station Return to Hidden Stories

 

The Blackhorse Newspaper
February 1976
Lt. Austin Bay 

H Co. First in Regiment

Tired, dirty, but nevertheless successful, Hotel Co., 2nd Squadron’s tank outfit, returned from two weeks of field exercises at Hohenfels Training Area with the highest test scores among the 11th ACR’s three tank companies.

The two - phased troop tests ( ARTEPs ) featured  a force on force confrontation pitting Delta, Hotel and Mike Co. against each other in a round robin war game of attack and delay.  But if Mike and Delta tankers think like H Co. tankers were the threat, the real enemy was the weather and the mud.

“ We stuck a lot of tanks and threw a lot of tracks, “  CPT James J. Steele recalls.  “ During the last part of  Phase I, my tank threw its right track to the inside, which is bad enough by itself.   However, at the time, we were attacking through a small pond in the middle of a tree farm.  My tank and my first platoon leader’s tank, which also threw a track, were stuck for three days.  We go out just in time for Phase II.”

         
     
         
     
         

Both of the phases included an attack, a delay, preparation of a defensive position, occupation and security of an assembly area, and a buttoned up  ( except of the tank commander for safety purposes) nuclear exploitation.  Said Sp4 Jerry Fegler, driver of H 14, “ Driving buttoned up really wasn’t so bad because the hatch keeps the mud and snow out.  I really got bathed a couple of times.”

Squadron support was very visible also during the training tests.  As the tanks would go down, the two M 88 crews ( one attached from Squadron Maintenance) went out to bring them out of the field and get them going again.  And it was cold. 

“ We were lucky we didn’t have any frostbite casualties,” said Sp5 George LeBlanc, a medic from HHT.  “ It got cold enough to do some real damage but everybody seemed to know how to take care of themselves.”  The medics held several refresher classes on cold weather survival during the period.

An ARTEP is designed  to evaluate a unit’s proficiency and if you happen to be a tanker that boils down to three fundamentals: You must shoot, move and communicate.  Though at times navigation proved to  be a problem ( “ Who can  read a map when the wind and snow makes all the terrain look the same! “ one unidentified and very lost tank commander was head to say ).  H Co proved to  be very capable at maneuver and it did well in using indirect artillery fire.

“ We did lots of maneuvering,” assured SSG Paul Lavergne, TC in H Co’s bridge section.  “ Normally when we’re moving around between BK and the border and while we’re out on alerts, we’re stuck on the roads.  At Hohenfels, we really got to use our vehicles doing what they’re designed to do.  We went and made our own. “

Right through a large sampling of good Bavarian mud!

Stuck in the 1970s

Great little article from the Blackhorse but there really is a lot more to it than initially meets the eye.  For one thing, a couple of troopers participating in the ARTEP captured all that tank recovery action on film and we have the images; nice job paying dividends so many years later.  Who would think you could bury tanks that deeply?

A second interesting facet of the article is the actual reporting on the tank company ARTEP at Hohenfels.  Let’s briefly look back at the “ modern day “ evolution of collective training.

Through the mid 1970s and early 1980s, the Army really began to address both individual and collective training in a wholly systemic approach.  All soldiers were responsible for being able to perform common tasks and then MOS specific tasks commensurate to their grade level.  Individual tasks were then integrated into collective tasks and these in turn were evaluated  through the company / troop and battalion / squadron ARTEP program.  Platoon tests and actual Platoon Leader tactical evaluations followed  a little bit latter and all of this training and testing was based on the doctrine taught at all the military schools back in the States.  Not a bad program and largely in tact today.

It is noteworthy to see that in 1976, the Regiment was conducting limited script force on force training at the Hohenfels Training Area ( HTA ).  When I arrived only a few years later, the Regiment was getting few if any training blocks at Hohenfels.  Rather, in Bad Kissingen, we were limited to Wildflecken and what could be done in the maneuver rights area, basically a block running parallel to the border midway between BK and the actual border trace. 

Wildflecken was pretty much unsuited for any maneuver testing  above the platoon level  and while the MRA was OK, fear of maneuver damage led to hosts of restrictions.  My recollections are that many times, both the company/ troop ARTEPs and the squadron level evaluations were rolled into REFORGER maneuvers.  A team of evaluators would show up, hang around for a few days, and then depart.  It sort of got the job done but the action and evaluation was certainly less intense than the maneuvers reported on by Lt. Bay.    

It is unknown why Blackhorse HTA availability was restricted in that late 1970s - early 1980s period; by 1983, the 11th ACR was back at Hohenfels - big time -  and the era of the Pony Fights, platoon and troop force on force maneuver supported by MILES began.  Many Blackhorse troopers recall those excursions as some of the best field training they encountered in Germany.

So much for the 1970s - let’s flog this story forward.  The Blackhorse article introduces us to two significant personalities, Austin Bay and James J. Steele, respectively writing and commanding in 1976 and still on stage and in the lime light to this present day.

Austin Bay

Over the years, I have reached out to Austin Bay a few times, introduced myself and the on line history project.  I think one time I got a message back wishing me “ good luck “. 

In the years since the great mud - bath, Mr. Bay has crafted a significant career as a soldier, writer, commentator and public speaker.  So here is a tip of the beret to Austin Bay, he has certainly earned his spurs even if he is not very interested in the Eaglehorse site.  His web site is here:  http://austinbay.net/  , check it out.

 
   
  Austin Bay, Blackhorse reporter in 1976, currently a writer, lecturer and featured guest.  
 

James J. Steele

During the mud - bath, H Company was commanded by CPT James J Steele, certainly one of the most dynamic officers to pass through Daley Barracks.  Highly decorated as a Blackhorse troop commander in Vietnam, Silver Star  citation here: http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=85756  , he commanded the tank company at Kissingen to familiarize himself with Germany before moving down the street as the Squadron S3.  From there, his career continued to unfold much like a Hollywood movie.  Ten years after throwing track, he was the commander of the 2nd ACR and  slated for promotion to Brigadier General.  Colonel Steele retired  from active duty and then things really got interesting; last heard, he was performing feats of  audacious bravery in Iraq.  His bio here:

http://premierespeakers.com/jim_steele/bio 
 
         
     
  Colonel James J Steele as commander of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in the mid 1980s.  

Colonel ( Ret ) Steele on a mission to Baghdad in 2005.  Our best man on yet another important assignment, certainly not stuck in the 1970s.

 
         
   
  Photo of the Commanders and Staff of 2/11 ACR circa 1975. Sqdn. Commander LTC Lee Allen is seated, center. Can you name the others? ***UPDATE*** Edward Grant sent the following info: Top row, left to right: CPT Michael Hawk (CDR HHT); CPT John B. Sylvester (E TRP CDR); CPT Clinton Ancker (F TRP CDR); CPT Craig Lind (G TRP CDR; CPT John Carter (H Co CDR); CPT Joe Denny (HOW BTY CDR), CSM MCCain. Seated, left to right: CPRT Michael Erickson (S1); CPT William Marshall (S4); MAJ Lou Voelkel (XO); LTC Lee Allen (SQDN CO); CPT Jim Steel (S3); CPT Glenn Plyler (S2); CPT Jim Young (SMO).
 
 
         

 
 


Home Return to Home Station Return to Hidden Stories