Fort Benning, Ga.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, loaded track vehicles and equipment aboard C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, June 3, at Lawson Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Ga., as they prepared to participate in a joint training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C. The exercise is designed to prepare units for a rapid deployment in defense of U.S interests across the globe.
Planning for the exercise started last year, and includes Air Force, Army and Marines simulating an attack into a contested airfield.
"Once we seize the lodgment," said Lt. Col. John Pirog, commander, 2/69 Armor. "The battalion will go in afterward to expand that lodgment and then push out a counterattack force."
Before the simulated attack can begin, Soldiers and Air Force personnel had to work together loading the vehicles into aircraft at Lawson, sometimes having only an 8 inch margin of error.
"For the past 10 years, we've done most of it by sea and by ground, going into Iraq and Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Pirog a native of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. "Now we'll actually be able to move out tanks and Bradleys by air. It hasn't been done in probably the better part of a decade, so we're rebooting all those old skills."
Each Abrams tank weighs nearly 70 tons, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles tip the scales around 30 tons each, so careful loading on to the aircraft is paramount, explained Capt. Sean Huss, a pilot with the 14th Airlift Squadron, 437th Airlift Wing, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.
"It's like any moving vehicle," he said. "There's a lot of momentum involved. The more weight you put on, the heavier that jet is, the tougher it is to slow down; it's like stopping a baseball, versus stopping a car."
For Soldiers gearing up to train at Bragg, getting there is only half the battle.
"This is a great opportunity to train in a realistic, joint environment," said Lt. Col. Pirog. "It is an honor to be selected to participate."