During an overcast morning in a field scattered with tank parts, a fierce competition was conducted March 8 by soldiers of “Crazyhorse” Company, 2nd “Lancers” Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
The Tanker Olympics is a timed, 11-event, tanker-specific contest created in remembrance of Medal of Honor recipient, Pfc. Billy Lauffer, a soldier formerly assigned to Crazyhorse Company, for actions during the Vietnam War.
“Essentially, we wanted to commemorate his accomplishments so we put this event together,” said 2nd Lt. Matthew Broomell, a platoon leader assigned to Crazyhorse.
The Tanker Olympics not only tested teamwork, physical strength and endurance, but also soldiers’ ability to mentally perform under fatigue.
Each platoon in Crazyhorse was broken down into three- or four-man teams and the stakes were high. The winning platoon earned the Lauffer Cup, and fastest crew within the platoon received a four-day weekend and bragging rights, said Spc. Steven Shives, a Crazyhorse machine gunner.
The competition began with each team carrying a 350-pound tow-bar to a water can station and back. After they carried the tow-bar, each team member carried two water cans to and from the next station.
At the beginning of the three-to-five second buddy rush event, the grader instructed the team members to begin sprinting.
Within three-to-five seconds, the grader yells, “down!” and the team low-crawls toward the ammo can press station until the grader signals to begin sprinting again.
Next, each team of four had to lift an ammunition container overhead for 120 repetitions while each team of three did 90 repetitions. Upon completion, the grader gave the command, “Gas! Gas! Gas!” signaling the soldiers to don M40 protective masks.
Wearing masks, the teams continued through the course doing forward-lunges to a cone, then ran to a military vehicle where they pushed the vehicle to the road wheel station.
Still wearing protective masks, the team carried a 55-pound Army road wheel to and from the tire flip station.
Next, the all clear command is given by the grader, allowing soldiers to remove and stow their protective masks for the next event.
One team member disassembles and reassembles an M240 machine gun as fast as possible while the remaining members do squat exercises holding tank parts on their shoulders.
Once the weapon was reassembled, the team members sprinted to the knowledge station.
To proceed, the team had to answer vehicle identification and regiment specific questions in the push-up position.
After correctly answering questions, teams moved to the final event, the litter carry.
“Morale usually picks up when this kind of thing happens,” Shives said. “As you can see, we’re yelling and screaming for everybody.”
Broomell explained the commander wanted to do something to bring Crazyhorse back to being true tankers, and wanted to make the events as challenging as possible by putting together a mix of cross-fit ideas as well as incorporating items found on tanks.
In addition to integrating protective masks into their events, Shives said soldiers came in early and studied to prepare for the competition.
“We’re all very excited to do this for the first time, to really build esprit de corps among ourselves and build camaraderie,” Broomell said. “It’s really a good chance to become more and more of a team.”