As the Army modernizes equipment and training across the ranks, the armor branch remains at the center of the close fight.
While tankers will continue to use an upgraded version of the M1 Abrams for years to come, advances in software, drones, munitions and robot battle buddies should push armor beyond where it is now.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Feltey, Armor School commandant, is in charge of training new and career armor soldiers as the Army moves to a different kind of fight — one that will see armor as both under threat like its not seen in decades and at a pivot point for close combat.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
What’s new at the Armor School since October 2020? What changes or new developments are planned for the school in 2022?
The work on division cavalry to support the Combined Arms Center reorganizes its forces and takes another look at how the divisions fight, such as how does our cavalry formation, at the echelon, fight at the division and brigade level. What you’re going to see with division cavalry is we’re going to reorganize our division to take Army cavalry squadrons from brigades, form them into a division cavalry squadron, creating armored cavalry troops within each of the brigades. The armored cavalry squadron will have three cavalry troops in it, a robust forward support company, and make either a robotics company or platoon. Forces Command has approved 1st Cavalry Division to pilot the armored cavalry redesign. In the next few months, we’re learning and we anticipate, if approved, a full operational capability by summer 2023. That unit will be ready to go to the National Training Center at that time.
We plan to be shoulder to shoulder with 1st Cavalry Division. We need an improved formation that delivers for future combat, that way we can get our programs of instruction for scout leaders and cavalry leaders course to teach what’s coming.
The next major change is the Armored Assault Company, which was borne out of the III Corps lethality study that identified gaps in the force for peer adversaries. We had to ask: How do we create the most lethal formations that we can from platform to skills mastery? This armored assault company gets after the professionalization of the Bradley crew member.
The working organization now is four platoons to replace the standard mechanized infantry now in brigades. There will be two Bradley platoons with six vehicles each, three infantry platoons and one mortar section. If approved, this could create a new MOS that is specialized in the Bradley — 19C. That will be a Bradley crewman. We are in the early phases of developing the E-1 to a sergeant first class model.
It will be built like another MOS. They are going to come out as licensed Bradley drivers. They’re going to get all the hours, variables and conditions, hands-on maintenance, some level of recovery training, and exposure to gunnery familiarization. We’ll put all of this training into live training in the field during the course. They will be ready from Day One after graduation.
Our experimental force here at the Maneuver Warfare Center of Excellence recently did the first live experiment with the armored assault company. We took one Bradley platoon with six vehicles, added an infantry platoon and took a company commander to see how it would fight. There’s still a lot of work to be done — tabletop exercises and more.
What’s the latest on the extended Armor One Station Unit Training?
We’ve got increased discipline, physical fitness and MOS proficiency with the extended OSUT. The program is paying dividends. Since fiscal 2020, we’ve trained more than 7,000 cavalry scouts and 2,800 armored vehicle crew members under the extended OSUT.
What new technologies were introduced at the Armor School at a tactical level since October 2020? How are they being used?
We have an augmented reality sand table system in the cavalry scout leaders course. It’s like a sand table with an overhead computer that can shape terrain and overlay maps atop it. And the trainer has a hand in how the student will experience the scenarios. It’s like having a dungeon master controlling and simulating effects. It’s great for collaborative mission planning and rehearsals, and you can play back everything.
We’re just beginning to integrate the M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank. We have 20 in our inventory. All of our leadership training, all of our operator training takes those and integrates them into our platform training. In the past, the schools could lag in getting new technology; it would go to the operational forces first. But we now have the newest tanks to train and teach on at the same time as the operational forces.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.