GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - In 2004, Staff Sgt. Angelo Gelster enlisted in the New York Army National Guard to be an M1 Abrams main battle tank crewman.
However, in 2006, his unit, the 1st Battalion, 127th Armor, was reorganized as the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry, and he was no longer a tanker. He was now a cavalryman training to conduct reconnaissance instead of employing armor.
But he never forgot where he came from. So when he came up for promotion to staff sergeant, and he was deployed to the Grafenwoehr Training Area alongside an armor unit, he asked to be promoted standing on one of their M1A2 Abrams tanks.
“It went back to my roots,” the Cheektowaga resident said. “Coming in through tanks and then going to be cavalry.”
Gelster, an ammunition specialist, is among 140 New York Army National Guard 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers deployed to Grafenwoehr as part of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.
The unit ensures the combat effectiveness of Ukrainian military personnel training on systems and equipment issued under U.S. Presidential Drawdown Authority.
The 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, part of that training effort, is equipped with M1A2 tanks.
Gelster said he hasn’t been around active tanks since his days in the 127th Armor but still misses serving on them.
“They’re awesome,” he said. “They’re big. They go boom. It’s not hard to explain.”
The 4th Cavalry tankers were happy to allow Gelster to be promoted on one of their tanks.
Army National Guard promotions are based on overall performance, attitude, leadership ability and development potential. They recognize the best-qualified Citizen-Soldiers to continue careers in the New York Army National Guard.
“Angelo’s outstanding contributions to the New York National Guard at home in his community and on deployment overseas are a sure sign that he will excel in his new rank,” said Col. William Murphy, commander of Task Force Orion.
When his deployment is complete, Gelster’s new rank will take him to the New York Army National Guard’s 642nd Aviation Support Battalion in Rochester.
He said he worked hard for his promotion and tells other Soldiers who aim to advance their careers that it takes a lot of determination and knowledge.
“Work hard. Fight for yourself,” he said. “Nobody’s just going to give it to you.”