Story by U.S. Army Master Sgt. Miriam Espinoza
FORT BENNING, Georgia — The Sullivan Cup Best Tank Crew Gunnery Competition has taken place biannually at Fort Benning, Georgia since 2012, but for the first time in its history, “First Team’s” crew had a female tank commander of an M1A2 Abrams tank at the competition which ran May 2 through 6.
“Since we finally opened up our branch in 2016, now we have crews with women and that’s a big first, that’s awesome for us and our branch and it’s long overdue,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas M. Felty, Armor School Commandant, U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence.
The Sullivan Cup competition is typically two weeks, one week of familiarization and one week where the crews are graded. The competition is designed to test tank crews with physically and mentally demanding events. This world-class competition rigorously evaluates the platform operation, sustainment, and lethality skills of competing crews. Crews receive an opportunity to showcase their skills, not only of their weaponry, but also as a crew as this competition requires each crew member to communicate and work together effectively to succeed.
“We are excited to welcome in the best tank and Bradley crews in the United States Army,” said Felty. “We just want to showcase the awesome firepower and skill that our Bradley and Tankers have in the Army.”
1st Cavalry Division, known for its rich history and their famous brand “First Team,” made history yet again by having the first female tank commander to compete in this year’s competition. This was also the first time in the competition’s history a 1CD Bradley Fighting Vehicle crew had the chance to compete.
“It’s truly the biggest honor as a tanker to come out here and showcase the skills that we practice on every single day,” said Sgt. Brandon Street, tanker, 2nd battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Combat Brigade Team. “It’s fun to come out here and compete against the best crews in the Army and show that we are the First Team, we’re the best.”
After the competition was cancelled in 2018 due to COVID-19, a total of 7 tank and 5 Bradley Fighting Vehicle crews from across the U.S. came out this year to compete for the coveted title of Best Tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle crew in the U.S. Army.
According to the Cavalry and Armor Association, the Sullivan Cup competition was named in honor of Gen. (Ret.) Gordon R. Sullivan, who is credited with transitioning the Army from its Cold War posture. The competition is held biennially during the first week of May and is hosted by the Fort Benning, Ga., home to some of the toughest ranges on a military installation.
“It’s not an easy range, it’s a tough range. Crew coordination is very important when you’re coming to Ft. Benning to shoot. It’s a big range, use good crew talk to maximize your potential,” said Felty.
The two crews representing 1CD spent around a month preparing for the competition. They understood how challenging the competition is and that they were competing against other top-tier armor vehicle crews carefully selected by their commands to represent them at the competition.
“I’m extremely proud of the crews and all the effort they put throughout the competition,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Shade Munday, 1st Cavalry Division CSM. “The competition was tough, the crews stayed motivated and worked as a team, that’s what it’s all about.”
The 1st Cavalry Division Tank Crew took 2nd place at this year’s competition by less than half a point. The Bradley Fighting crew took 5th place.
“We came in with only a month’s training, we built ourselves from the ground up, this competition brought even closer together,” said 1st Lt. Janel Tracy, tank commander, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. “It was a challenging experience, but we worked as a team and that’s when we did our best. We had fun and the competition made us a closer crew for and we built bonds that will be there for the rest of our lives.”