Support our mission
 
An Italian C1 Ariete battle tank fires at a target during a maneuver drill on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area over the course of a week.
An Italian C1 Ariete battle tank fires at a target during a maneuver drill on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area over the course of a week. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
An Italian C1 Ariete battle tank fires at a target during a maneuver drill on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area over the course of a week.
An Italian C1 Ariete battle tank fires at a target during a maneuver drill on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area over the course of a week. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
An American tanker riding a M1A2 SEP Abrams battle tank heads to the firing range on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area. The tank challenge was co-hosted by U.S. Army Europe and the German Bundeswehr and featured tank units from the U.S., Slovenia, Poland, Italy, Denmark and Germany.
An American tanker riding a M1A2 SEP Abrams battle tank heads to the firing range on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area. The tank challenge was co-hosted by U.S. Army Europe and the German Bundeswehr and featured tank units from the U.S., Slovenia, Poland, Italy, Denmark and Germany. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
German Leopard 2A6 battle tanks fire downrange during a maneuvers at the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
German Leopard 2A6 battle tanks fire downrange during a maneuvers at the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, speaks to American tankers on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, before they began a firing drill as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area.
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, speaks to American tankers on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, before they began a firing drill as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Army Pvt. Martell Thompson pulls security as his fellow tank crewmembers fix a tank tread during an improvised explosive device drill at the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
U.S. Army Pvt. Martell Thompson pulls security as his fellow tank crewmembers fix a tank tread during an improvised explosive device drill at the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
An Italian C1 Ariete battle tank fires at a target on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area.
An Italian C1 Ariete battle tank fires at a target on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Italian C1 Ariete battle tanks roll out on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as they took part in the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area.
Italian C1 Ariete battle tanks roll out on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as they took part in the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Army Spc. Diego Magana tightens a bolt on a M1A2 Abrams battle tank during a drill held on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area.
U.S. Army Spc. Diego Magana tightens a bolt on a M1A2 Abrams battle tank during a drill held on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Army Col. Clark Lindner scopes out the Italians' firing precision during their firing drill held as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area.
U.S. Army Col. Clark Lindner scopes out the Italians' firing precision during their firing drill held as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Army Spc. Stephen Holtzclaw (left) and Sgt. Lionel Ray tend to a simulated casualty during a drill held as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area.
U.S. Army Spc. Stephen Holtzclaw (left) and Sgt. Lionel Ray tend to a simulated casualty during a drill held as part of the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Klinkiewicz (left) and Sgt. 1st Class Phillip McFarland put the finishing touches on their ?disabled? M1A2 Abrams battle tank during an improvised explosive device drill at the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge. The soldiers were part of the American force that took part in the six-nation competition held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Klinkiewicz (left) and Sgt. 1st Class Phillip McFarland put the finishing touches on their ?disabled? M1A2 Abrams battle tank during an improvised explosive device drill at the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge. The soldiers were part of the American force that took part in the six-nation competition held at the Grafenwoehr, Germany training area. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
American tankers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, Company D, practice replacing the treads on their M1A2 Abrams battle tank on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, during the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
American tankers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, Company D, practice replacing the treads on their M1A2 Abrams battle tank on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, during the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held in Grafenwoehr, Germany. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Phillip McFarland inspects the treads on his their M1A2 Abrams battle tank on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, during the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Phillip McFarland inspects the treads on his their M1A2 Abrams battle tank on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, during the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge held in Grafenwoehr, Germany. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — What was once old, was new again as six NATO-allied nations converged on the training grounds here for the 2016 Strong Europe Tank Challenge.

Co-hosted by U.S. Army Europe and the German Bundeswehr, it was part competition, part skills training and — as is the case with nearly every USAREUR event recently — part deterrence measure. It also aimed to restore some old skills that have fallen by the wayside since the end of the Cold War.

“You’ve got to continue to train; you have to invest the time and resources in the training to have the best possible deterrent force,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe. “This international tank challenge is a part of a series of things that helps us improve our skill.”

Of those skills tested, some — like using camouflage netting to mask a 60-ton hunk of metal — haven’t been part of regular tanker training in some time, Hodges said.

Others, like dealing with improvised explosive device attacks were a test of how well the participating units from the U.S., Germany, Denmark, Italy, Poland and Slovenia work together.

“In order to deter, you have to have credible warfighting formations,” Hodges said. “That means it’s not just having the equipment there, you’ve got to have formations, crews that know how to do it. This is a time tested way to help do this.”

While officials focused on how the challenge fit into USAREUR’s mission to deter further aggression from Russia, the troops on the ground were focused on only one thing.

“We want to be the best,” said Spc. Angel Medina, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, Company C. “That’s the fire right there.”

Unfortunately for Medina and his fellow crewmembers, when the smoke cleared on Friday, it was the Germans in their Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks, and not the Americans, who won top bragging rights. The Danish platoon took second and the Poles are bringing home third place.

German tank commander Staff Sgt. Tim Walter said the key to victory in the Tuesday to Thursday event was the open dialogue he kept with both his men and, surprisingly enough, the other teams.

“Every soldier gets to talk, and everyone does what he thinks is best to fulfill the task,” he said. “That made us winners.”

Walter said he and his men are now relieved that it’s over and that they’re leaving victorious.

“It was challenging, but it was a lot of fun,” he said. “We’re all happy. ... We worked so hard for this.”

darnell.michael@stripes.com

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up