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Cavalry adds maneuver power to tanks

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Sgt. Angel Turner | U.S. Army

Sgt. Edwin Laplaunt, a tank mechanic assigned to Company J, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, examines an M1A2 System Enhancement Package Tank at the Fort Hood rail head Feb. 19.

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Engines roared, breaking the morning silence as exhaust fumes filled the foggy air.

Soldiers peered under the hoods, checking fluids levels and looking for potential problems.

Newly acquired M1A2 System Enhancement Package Tanks and M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles lined the Fort Hood rail head Feb. 19, and 1st Cavalry Division soldiers were there to greet them.

“We’re adding fighting power to the unit,” said 1st Sgt. Mario Giron, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment.

Formerly a reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition squadron, the “Head Hunter” Battalion now is part of the 1st Cavalry’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and the unit recently became a combined arms battalion as part of the reorganization of units throughout the Army.

“The battalion went through an entire transformation, going from a primarily scout (military occupational specialty) to now (having) infantrymen, tankers and sustainers,” said Lt. Col. Jason Tussey, battalion commander.

Due to the unit switching gears, it needed new wheels.

Twenty-nine Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and 29 tanks were divvied up among the battalion’s four companies.

The vehicles had been downloaded from trains the day prior, and the soldiers diligently performed checks and services on the newly acquired fleet, ensuring the tanks and Bradleys were ready for transport to their final staging place.

“If a major war were to break out, these vehicles will be ready,” Giron said.

With the restructure of the battalion, the soldiers and officers have to adapt to meet the new mission requirements.

“Before I was a scout platoon leader, now I’m an infantry platoon leader — just like that,” said 1st Lt. Elliot Volin of Alpha Company. “I’ll have to transition my abilities and mindset to that.”

Volin said his main priority is getting his soldiers trained and ensuring their proficiency on the equipment.

“A lot of these new infantrymen don’t have any time or experience on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, so the main effort will be to get them trained and prepared on the tactics and abilities of the vehicle,” Volin said.

The battalion consists of about 700 soldiers, an increase from the nearly 400 assigned to the unit when it was a squadron.

Over the past month and a half, one company alone received roughly 70 new soldiers; mostly recent basic training graduates.

The group of soldiers seemed happy as they assisted each other in the unit’s new endeavor.

“The smile on the soldiers’ faces is what makes it worth being out here today receiving this equipment,” Tussey said. “As you look out across the formations, you see men, women, different (speciality jobs) all working together at the same goal of building this organization and being committed — committed to the goal and committed to the Army.”

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Sgt. Angel Turner | U.S. Army

Sgt. Edwin Laplaunt, a tank mechanic assigned to Company J, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, examines an M1A2 System Enhancement Package Tank at the Fort Hood rail head Feb. 19.

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