FORT BENNING, Ga.— As a showcase for the fourth biennial Gainey Cup International Best Scout Squad Competition, the U.S. Army Armor School hosted the Scouts in Action demonstration, April 29, at Red Cloud Range.
The Gainey Cup determines the best six-Soldier scout squad in the Army and internationally by testing squads on their scouting and cavalry skills, their physical stamina, and their cohesion as a team.
The Scouts in Action demonstration was an opportunity for the Armor School to tell the history of the U.S. Cavalry and to show the public what scout squads do for their units, said Capt. Tim Sweeney, Cavalry Leaders Course instructor.
“Part of what we do in the cavalry is really in the shadows and really hidden from the world to see, because that’s the nature of our business,” Sweeney said. “(Scouts in Action) was a demonstration of the different weapons platforms that we have and how they can be used to execute missions on the battlefield. So we’re just bringing what the cav does to light.”
During the historical portion of Scouts in Action, the spectators, which included Soldiers, civilians and Family members, saw how they would’ve appeared in their uniforms, riding and driving as they would have during that time period.
They rode horses as Army scouts would have during the Civil War and drove Jeeps as Army scouts would have during World War II. Then they drove the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee), the Bradley fighting vehicle and the Stryker armored vehicle, all from the latter part of the 20th century.
As part of the demonstration of scout skills for the audience, a scout squad performed aerial reconnaissance using a drone. After a notional enemy fired upon the scouts, the scouts fired back. Their Humvee got several rounds off in a one-second burst. Then a Bradley fighting vehicle joined the action and scouts in Abrams tanks fired at the enemy, each concussive thud knocking up dust.
“So today was the demonstration of the firepower they have,” Sweeney said. “Then over the next three days, they’ll use that firepower and use their dismounted capabilities to execute the missions and really achieve their commander’s end state.”
When the demonstration ended, the spectators had the opportunity to get refreshments, talk with Soldiers and explore some of the vehicles they had just seen in action. The demonstration served as a public entry point to the competition already in progress.
The scout squads arrived the week before and took part in knowledge tests, vehicle identification, a call for fire, a gunnery skills test and a land navigation course.
Units participating this year included the 1st Armored Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 25th Infantry divisions, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions, 2nd, 3rd and 134th Cavalry regiments, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army Alaska, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the Canadian, Great Britain, Netherlands and German armies.
The squads began the second week of competition with an early morning reconnaissance run at Brave Rifles Parade Field at Harmony Church. During the reconnaissance run, the six-person scout squads ran in uniform and gear over a set course with an unknown distance. The course was completed once every member of a squad crossed the finish line back at Brave Rifles Parade Field.
Over three days, the squads performed exercises that synthesized skills they were evaluated on during the first week. A scout squad proficiency exercise required the scout squads to orient on a reconnaissance objective while performing reconnaissance on 20 kilometers of terrain occupied by enemy forces.
During the scout skills event, the squads maneuvered in their vehicle while collecting and reporting information. As part of a lethality exercise, the squads conducted a tactical mission under live fire, and received a grade according to their ability to report and engage the enemy force. Besides drawing focus to the scout mission operational specialty, the competition also served as a training event for the U.S. Armor School and the units the scout squads represent.
“This competition does a very good job of highlighting the capabilities and limitations that Cavalry scouts encounter, so it’s a way that units can continue to build their training plan, and the Army can look at training and figure out how we can become more and more lethal,” Sweeney said.
The final event of the competition was the Final Charge on May 3 at Brave Rifles Parade Field followed by an awards ceremony.