The rumble of Abrams tanks and the orange flash of their cannons as they blast targets downrange will be center-stage at Fort Benning May 4 – 8 when top Abrams crews from the Army, Marine Corps and three partner countries take part in the prestigious Sullivan Cup Tank Crew Competition. The arduous, combat-oriented Sullivan Cup is held every other year and brings to Fort Benning standout M1 Abrams tank crews from the Army, Marine Corps, and other nations, which this year are Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Australia. Competing crews undergo five grinding days of events that test how well they can apply their skills to the crew tasks and physical and mental stresses they’d face in combat.
The Sullivan Cup is hosted by the U.S. Army Armor School, part of Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence. The MCoE trains the Army’s Armor and Infantry, which compose the nation’s maneuver force. Abrams tank crews consist of four members: tank commander, gunner, loader, and driver. Of the U.S. teams, eight are from armored elements of the: 1st Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Armored Division, 3rd Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 11th Armored Cavalry Division. Two will be coming from armored elements of the Army National Guard. One will be from an armored unit of the U.S. Marine Corps. The foreign partners are sending one team each.
The aim of the Sullivan Cup is not to be merely an exciting competition. Its paramount purpose is to afford Army leaders a chance to assess the capabilities of a cross-section of some of its best tank crews. That gives them a valuable look at whether current training methods are working well, and whether certain improvements should be considered, whether to training, tactics, techniques, or equipment. So, it’s open only to those whose regular job is to serve in a tank crew that’s part of a tank formation. Units are forbidden from sending “all-star” pick-up teams. Typically, the crews with the highest gunnery and fitness test scores are considered for Sullivan Cup.
Written observations and other findings made during the Sullivan Cup will be sent out the larger “operational force,”. At the same time, Sullivan Cup helps competing crews further hone their skills, and that matches the Armor School’s goal of helping ensure the tank force is the most skillful — and lethal in battle — it can be. Members of the public can get event details and current standings among competing crews by going to the second floor of Fort Benning’s Patton Hall, which is building 5145. The Sullivan Cup is open to the public and there’ll be lots for spectators to see.