Armor: March 21, 2001


: The US Army's Armor Branch is working up the test its soldiers must pass to receive the proposed Expert Armor Badge. They are making the test very tough, not least so that the Infantry Branch cannot complain. Because armor operations are a crew effort rather than an individual one, no armor soldier can even take the test unless he has been part of a vehicle crew which passed the tough Gunnery Table VIII within the previous year (two years for reservists). The first day of the test will begin with the Advanced Physical Fitness Test. Any soldier who does not score 270 points out of 300 is out of the running by lunchtime. In the afternoon of the first day, the soldiers will fire their individual weapons. Anyone who does not score "Expert" is out of the running in time for supper. Those who survive these basic tests will then be sent on a grueling nine-hour all-night land navigation test. Three soldiers taking the test and one grader will be put in a Humvee. Each applicant will then have three hours to guide the vehicle to three widely-separated points. After a morning of rest, the afternoon of the second day will be used in "station testing", where the soldiers travel between a series of test sites in rotation. While the Expert Infantry Badge uses only Level-1 skills in its station testing, the Expert Armor Badge will require tests of skills up to Level-4. There are six stations, and a soldier will test three of them on the afternoon of the second day and the other three on the morning of the third day. The six stations include:

1. First aid

2. Listening Post and Outpost operations (communications, surveillance, reporting, vehicle identification)

3. Mines

4. Gunnery Skills Test (specific to the vehicle the soldier is assigned to)

5. Tactical Operations (react to a situation according to doctrine for tanks or scouts)

6. MOS-specific test (vehicle crews will take a test on route reconnaissance, cavalry scouts will take a test on target acquisition) The afternoon of the third day is reserved for re-testing. As in the Expert Infantry Badge, a soldier who fails two of the six stations can re-test for them. If he fails a given station twice, or three stations once, he is eliminated.

While the Expert Infantry Badge finished with a 20 kilometer road march that must be completed in a set time, armor soldiers must instead complete a much more complicated 20 kilometer orienteering (compass) course, also within a limited time. This will be done dismounted. On the afternoon of the fourth day, those who have successfully passed the test will form up by units to receive the new Expert Armor Badge.Stephen V Cole


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