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Staff Sgt. Eric Knott, 31, foreground, Spec. James Conn, 27, behind Knott, and Pfc. Joshua Reasoner, 21, are the sole members of Club 34, their Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Even with war looming, the soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade of the 1st Armored Division say the don’t believe anything can rattle their calm, collected approach to work.

Staff Sgt. Eric Knott, 31, foreground, Spec. James Conn, 27, behind Knott, and Pfc. Joshua Reasoner, 21, are the sole members of Club 34, their Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Even with war looming, the soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade of the 1st Armored Division say the don’t believe anything can rattle their calm, collected approach to work. (Terry Boyd / S&S)

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — You don’t have to be around the Army long before you learn buzzwords such as “unit cohesion” and “warrior culture.” It takes longer to see how they mold the soldier’s world.

Moving from the conceptual to the concrete, you get three soldiers like Staff Sgt. Eric Knott, Spc. James Conn and Pfc. Joshua Reasoner of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade.

Laid-back, happy-go-lucky and deadly, they are not stereotypical “hooah” Army. But they are good at their jobs and loyal to one another.

Collectively, they call themselves “Club 34,” and they are indeed one of the Army’s more exclusive clubs. Membership — which cannot be acquired at any price — in Club 34 allows you entry into Charlie 34, their M3A1 Bradley fighting vehicle armored personnel carrier.

When asked who the best crew is, a number of other Bradley crewmembers at a gunnery range practice last week in Baumholder pointed to Knott and Company.

Part of Club 34’s celebrity comes from posting the best range performance in the 6th Brigade — and possibly in the 1st Armored Division — on their first Bradley Table 8 at Grafenwöhr Training Area last November. Under the worst weather conditions possible, the crew shot 10 Ts — a perfect score for a “distinguished” rating.

While membership has its privileges, it also has its obligations. Although Club 34 hasn’t gotten its deployment orders, it’s not unlikely that Knott, Conn and Reasoner may soon be chauffeuring dismounted infantry into battle to attack enemy flanks inaccessible to heavy Abrams main battle tanks.

Talking quietly on the side of Baumholder’s Range 11 last week, the three expected combat to be messy, but were convinced that each would do whatever it takes to survive. And it doesn’t hurt that these guys can shoot.

Knott is the Bradley commander, with Conn gunning and Reasoner driving. They are friends, yet they seem totally different. The eldest at 31, Knott admits to being obsessive about having everything just so inside Club 34.

“I get that damn NCO mentality sometimes. You know … ‘Just do it!’ ” he said

Reasoner, 21, is the one “who says, ‘Maybe we should do it this way.’ And sometimes that’s the way to do it,” Knott says.

Conn, 27, is a tall Texan who doesn’t smile a lot. Laconic, he chooses his words precisely. His fellow Club 34 members call him “the technical adviser.”

“I’ve driven track for over a year,” Conn says. “There’s not much I haven’t done in track ….” Conn knew when he joined up that he wanted to go infantry, “but when I saw the Bradley, I wanted to drive it. After I drove it awhile, I wanted to shoot it.”

While they pride themselves in never being “serious,” they approach their job methodically, Knott says. Getting the weapons zeroed in. Acquiring and staying on target. Correcting quickly when they’re off.

“If you don’t do well, it’s tough on your ego,” Conn says. “You don’t want everyone making fun of you because you can’t shoot worth a crap.

“Gunnery is all about bragging rights. If you’re not any good, you don’t have bragging rights.”

But theirs is not an easy world to make a mark, and senior noncommissioned officers are not impressed. One 1st AD NCO wearing a Combat Infantry Badge from the Persian Gulf War says shooting “distinguished” on Bradley Table 8 is no indicator of future combat performance.

The first crew through the gunnery range tends to brief the following crews on which targets — enemy “soldiers” and “vehicles” — will pop up and where, says the NCO, who asks his name not be used.

“Once you’re trained to the point where you’re shooting 10 Ts, you’re so robotic that you’re almost forced to do the right thing, no matter what,” the combat veteran says. “But maybe robotic isn’t such a good thing, sometimes.”

In combat, everything gets speeded up, and crews must learn to react to stay alive — something you can only learn in combat, he says.

Club 34 may not have been in combat, but it takes pride in learning everything there is to know about the Bradley.

“It’s sort of like role-playing games,” Knott says. “Like Dungeons and Dragons. Everyone starts out at Level One. The higher the level you are, the longer you last against the dragon.”

Asked if impending war focuses the mind, Conn counters that the crew approaches work the same, war or no war: “It’s our job. We’re supposed to be good. That’s what we do,” he said.

If this crew has an advantage over any other it is there conviction that their cohesion will get them through anything.

Says Knotts: “I tell my wife I’m happy to be working with Reasoner and Conn. If the [expletive] hits the fan, we’ll come back. We’ll come back.”

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