FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - Four members of the Pennsylvania National Guard placed among the top four teams in the Sullivan Cup armor completion May 11-15 in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Bailey, Sgt. Michael Shultz, Spc. Timothy Humpal and Spc. Zachary Zondory represented the 3-103rd Armor Battalion, 55th Armor Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, as one of 17 U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and Canadian tank crews.
Bailey, the Pennsylvania National Guard team's tank commander, was excited at the opportunity to compete as one of three National Guard teams against several active duty crews. Bailey, Shultz, Humpal and Zondory, who serve as the tank commander, gunner, loader and driver respectively, are traditional part-time National Guard members.
"It's a good chance to get on tanks and prove that we've got the guts to try to be number one," Bailey said. The competition began with warrior tasks, physical fitness, tactical crew drills, precision gunnery and a mystery event that turned out to be a stress-shoot lane. The two best-scoring crews from each of two groups advanced to the top four shoot-off competition.
The Pennsylvania team was the only National Guard team to advance after placing second in their group. They were recognized for scoring highest on the stress-shot lane, running a mile in their duty uniform and boots in under six minutes, then carrying a weighted dummy on a stretcher to three live-fire M4 and M9 lanes.
Also in this top four were crews from the 2-69th Armor Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division; 1-72nd Armor Battalion, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division; and the 1-12th Cavalry Squadron, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Bailey said physical fitness and tactics were the strengths of the team due to their experience and training. A weakness, perhaps, was the crew's M1A1 Abrams tank, because they competed against crews using upgraded M1A2 SEP, or System Enhancement Package, which includes the addition of a commander's independent thermal viewer, an improved fire-control system and other significant improvements.
The adjutant general of Pennsylvania, Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, praised his team, which he said is indicative of the skill and toughness possessed by his guardsmen and women.
"Facing mostly active duty tank crews, using M1A1s versus their M1A2 SEPs, our team demonstrated the superior capabilities of the National Guard," Craig said of the 3-103rd Armor team, which is headquartered in Danville. "They were driving an Impala against Corvettes and they led the race through raw skill and tenacity. I could not be prouder of these tankers."
The 3-103rd Armor Battalion was most recently deployed in 2007 to Afghanistan but used up-armored humvees instead of their tanks. The unit has recently begun to prioritize its tank skills and conducted its first live-fire gunnery exercise since the deployment in 2013.
Col. Michael Konzman, commander of the Scranton-based 55th Armor Brigade, was also proud of Pennsylvania's crew and said their success is a sign of the proficiency of his entire brigade, several parts of which have been deployed multiple times since 9/11.
"This crew competed at the highest levels with a raw M1A1 tank, so imagine how strong they would be using the latest equipment," said Konzman. "The toughness and the experience demonstrated by our Soldiers are further proof that the 55th Armor Brigade is one of the elite armor brigades in the entire U.S. Army."
The Sullivan Cup: Best Tank Crew Competition is hosted by the Maneuver Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Armor School, and the 194th Armored Brigade. It is named after retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the 32nd Army Chief of Staff.