the Track of the CAT...
Team Concept and a Return to the Basics
Wins Canadian Army Trophy
By the 3d AD & V Corps CAT Team
[through 3AD & V Corps PAO's,
On June 19th, 1987, 1st platoon, Delta Company, 4th Battalion,
8th Cavalry (formerly 3-33 Armor) did what no other U.S. Army
unit has been able to do in 24 years of international tank gunnery
competition: we won the Canadian Army Trophy (CAT)!
Out of a possible 21,800 points, 1st platoon posted a Final
score of 20,490, which was 800 points higher than its closest
competitors, 2nd platoon, 4th Company, 124th Panzer Battalion
[German Army] (19,690 points).
The winning platoon's battle run was the last of the five-day
competition, making this first-time U.S. victory as dramatic
as a World Series Game Seven grand slam home run with two outs
in the bottom of the ninth inning. The achievement capped months
of intense training by Delta Company and verified a superb training
Every two years, the CAT tank gunnery competition brings together
10 teams, consisting of 24 platoons, from NATO'S Central Army
Group (CENTAG) and Northern Army Group (NORTHAG). Nations represented
at this year's CAT were Canada, Belgium, Great Britain, the Netherlands,
West Germany (3 teams), and the United States (3 teams). In recent
years, the official top prize has been awarded to the army group
with the highest total points at the end of the competition;
however every team hopes that one of its platoons will have the
highest battle run score of the competition. That platoon and
its team, battalion, division, corps, army - and the tank it
used - become the real winners of CAT.
Unfortunately, the past failures of the United Slates to win
CAT have had the effect of transforming the competition into
a test. This is not a phenomenon peculiar to the United States.
The showing of the Royal Hussars at this year's competition was
the subject of a front page story in London's Sunday Telegraph,
June 21, 1987, titled "NATO Allies Outgun Britain's
New Battle Tanks". Critics have used the results of past
CATs to slam the way the Army trains, the quality of its all-volunteer
force, and its procurement policies. These criticisms are as
baseless as those who would claim that our use of the Unit Conduct
of Fire Trainer (UCOFT) and Simulation Network (SIMNET) proves
that simulators can be used to further reduce yearly training
Our victory does not prove that the Ml is a better lank than
the Leopard II, nor that U.S. volunteers are superior to West
German conscripts. Our victory did prove that, given a capable
piece of equipment and a solid training program, U.S. soldiers,
not "gladiator troops" (a label pinned on us by a member
of one of the other competing teams) are among the finest tankers
in the world.
The most often cited reason why U.S. teams had been unsuccessful
in their attempts to win CAT was that Army personnel policies
made it impossible to bring together the necessary number of
troops with CAT experience. Many experts were convinced that
stabilized crews were the answer to German dominance at past
competitions. The 1987 CAT Committee of Control requirement,
for each sponsor (in our case, V Corps) to train two companies
prior to an April 1 blind-draw selection, made the pool of experienced
CAT tankers even smaller. The other company was made up of members
of 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry. (There is no doubt in our minds
that they would have enjoyed the same success we did, had they
been chosen to represent 3AD and V Corps.)
Veterans of CAT scoffed at a 3rd Armored Division team that
said it was going to win without a single tank commander, gunner,
loader, or driver that had ever competed in CAT. The team that
we fielded was not a group of super tankers; rather, it was representative
of today's armor force. The company was made up of the most qualified
volunteers that one battalion had to offer. Even so, given the
talent that was available, it was clearly representative of the
battalion as a whole.
Training is the key to winning CAT; however, logistics is
a most significant element of any training plan. In today's Army
we tend to view training and logistics as two separate activities,
primarily because of our desire to assign functional areas of
responsibility. While this distinction makes it easier for the
commander and his executive officer to write OER support forms,
it also tends to cause leaders to view training and logistics
as related, but not dependent on each other. Our experience during
CAT vindicated a strong belief we took into CAT: logistics and
training are mutually supportive. Many pay lip service to that
simple statement; our challenge was to implement a system that
would make it a reality in our CAT company. To win we knew that
we would have to train and maintain significantly better than
U.S. units had done in previous CATs.
It is noteworthy that we broke with the Army of Excellence
MTO&E when we moved support personnel from HHC to the CAT
company. We viewed that restructuring as a critical step in building
a CAT team rather than a gunnery company. Our team, not any one
platoon or 16 tankers, won CAT. The team concept ensured that
training and logistics were not viewed as separate entities.
The Ml system exacerbates the need to treat training and logistics
as a team. High-tech and relatively new systems like the Ml tend
to blur the distinction between maintenance problems, systems
problems, and training problems. The following situation illustrates
this lack of distinction: You have a maintenance problem when
a shortline round is due to a laser that is overheated or improperly
installed. You have a systems problem when a crew shoots shortline
because the number five circuit card comes loose in the computer-electronics
unit (which happened frequently). You have a training problem
when a shortline is caused by improper lasing techniques. In
all these examples, the result is a shortline, and leaders know
that shortlines must be eliminated to win CAT.
If the leader does not understand the intricacies of the Ml,
and the bond between logistician and trainer is not strong, the
trainer blames maintenance, and logisticians blame training.
(We had very few maintenance problems; the Ml had some systems
problems.) At a minimum, valuable preparation lime is either
lost or wasted before the real cause is determined. In worst-case
situations, the real cause is not identified, and the problem
persists. We were successful because we were able to determine
the cause quickly and apply the needed remedy. A strong team
gave us that ability.
If the Ml is one of the finest tanks in NATO, and the quality
of U.S. soldiers was as good as those in our allies' armies,
then the key to winning CAT for the first lime had to be training.
Our analysis of past U.S. efforts to win CAT indicated that the
lack of a stable, coherent, and a well-thought-out training plan
had hindered units. A careful reading of their after-action reports
indicated that they had concentrated almost exclusively on major
densities and seemed to view the time they were not on the range
as disfunctional, maybe even wasted. CAT teams are allocated
so much range time during their preparation phase that (here
seemed to be a tendency to view lime at home station as but a
respite between densities.
Our training strategy did not revolve around any single training
event or device. Instead, we designed a total program that stressed
innovative training at home station as well as making maximum
use of scarce range time and main gun ammunition. The keystones
of that training strategy were:
- We constructed a Tank Crew Proficiency Course (TCPC) at a
local training area that was a 1/4-scale duplicate of the competition
range. Platoons maneuvered their own tanks, equipped with the
Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES), along (he
scaled-down course roads and engaged remote-controlled targets
outfitted with the Target Interface Device System (TIDS). MILES
and TIDS created target effect (the target fell when hit) and
we were able to score CAT battle runs. All the tasks, conditions,
and standards of CAT training were integrated into this course.
It was so realistic that crews were able to practice target acquisition
and range memorization.
- Not all of our training was this glamorous. We stressed platoon
basics by spending countless hours in the classroom gathered
around a terrain board. We developed range attack procedures,
drilled C-squared, and reviewed lessons learned during CAT training
at Grafenwoehr and Baumholder.
- Normal division densities at Grafenwoehr and Baumholder were
used for CAT training. Before we fired a single main gun round,
we ensured that the target scenarios and the range configuration
duplicated what we knew about CAT battle runs. We developed an
accurate scoring method that provided detailed firing data which
we used to attack known weaknesses.
- Mr. Doug Walters, AMCCOM, developed a new procedure for zeroing
the Ml. Walters used a grid target panel, in conjunction with
a correction matrix, to produce a zero that allowed us to consistently
put rounds through an 8-inch bullseye at 2,000 meters. We feel
strong about replacing calibration with zeroing. Whatever extra
rounds are used to zero will be saved with more first-round hits
during the subsequent training tables.
- During two of our densities at Grafenwoehr, we invited teams
from both NORTHAG and GEN-TAG to attended a pre-competition training
camp. The so-called "Kitty CAT" training camps were
the brainstorm of our Commanding General, MG Thomas Griffin.
As a lieutenant, he had competed in a contest similar to CAT
and remembered the pressure of international competition. The
CG wanted everything possible done to duplicate the pressurized
atmosphere which, if not handled properly, can humble the best
trained platoon. He insisted that our soldiers would have a better
chance of winning CAT if the first time they saw a German cross
painted on the side of a Leo II was not at the actual competition.
MG Griffin was right. We feared no one.
- As part of our program to ensure that our soldiers could
handle the stress of the actual competition, we asked the United
States Military Academy for the services of Dr. Dennis Forbes,
a member of the faculty. Dr. Forbes was no stranger to CAT. He
had been part of the SAD team in 1981. Dr. Forbes came to Grafenwoehr
in the third week of May and remained with the team through the
last run of the competition. His method of controlling stress
was accepted by the troops and paid immediate dividends. Dr.
Forbes gave us a team of competitors rather than participants.
Everything we did for many months preceding CAT was directed
towards winning. Critics of the competition have argued the CAT
mission is detrimental to a unit because it focuses all its assets
and training to the attainment of a single goal for up to a year.
Many would carry the argument even further and add that CAT gunnery
training does not support the Army's gunnery program, e.g., the
competition does not require crew commands, night firing, or
degraded gunnery. Our experience is that these critics are wrong.
CAT training supports the mission of a forward-deployed armor
battalion in Central Europe.
Delta Company deployed to Hohenfels one month after CAT for
participation in the battalion's task force ARTEP. The company
had no field time between CAT and Hohenfels to brush up on rusty
field skills and conduct the tactical training that had been
ignored for up to ten months. Even though the battalion's other
companies had conducted ARTEP training, Delta Company's across-the-board
performance at Hohenfels was superior to every other company
in the battalion. It is noteworthy that the battalion as a whole
had an excellent ARTEP, with some observers rating it as one
of the top two performances in the division. The key to understanding
Delta Company's performance is clear when we look at the process
rather than the product of CAT training.
The product of our CAT training program was the first
victory for a U.S. Army platoon in the history of the competition.
Team-building and development of the company chain of command
were the critical elements of the process that allowed
us to successfully implement our training plan. The individual
skills that were honed during CAT went far beyond those required
for gunnery. They were the kind of skills that support the accomplishment
of any mission and make a good unit a great combat team.
It may seem trite to point out that CAT training must stress
quality and not quantity; however, it's true. A successful day
on the range is not a function of how many battle runs are made,
or even the platoon's performance. A good day on a CAT range
is when the trainers know what targets they missed and why they
missed. A great day on a CAT range is when the crews have full
confidence in their equipment and the scoring system and believe
they missed those targets. When both of these things occur, platoons
(helped by trainers) can go through the process of determining
whether misses were due to individual or platoon weaknesses.
They identify problems, and trainers must design new scenarios
to test the corrections.
If the problem persists, both must look at (he attack SOP
to see whether there is a belter way of doing things.
The UCOFT and SIMNET facilities were an integral part of our
training program, however, they alone are not responsible for
our victory. Our training strategy can best be described as a
blend of basic training methods, attention to detail, state of
the art training devices, and the kind of quality soldiers that
are found everywhere in today's Army. Yet, if we were asked to
cite the single most important element in our overall strategy
it would have to be that we fielded a team, in every sense of
On June 19, if anyone in Delta Company was asked who won CAT,
he would not reply "1st Platoon." He would proudly
reply, "We Did!"
NOTE: Armor is published bi-monthly
by the U.S. Army Armor Center, Fort Knox, KY, with the secondary
title of "The Professional Development Bulletin of the Armor
Branch." The illustration of the CAT trophy at the top of
this page was by artist "SFC Robert Torsrud, 28 Sept. 87."
Unfortunately we are not positive of the spelling of his last
name. His Army unit, or whether he was on the Armor staff,
was not indicated in the publication.