1-37 Armor Regiment tankers reunite at Fort Bliss
By Wendy Brown, Fort Bliss Bugle Managing Editor:
(El Paso, Texas, Mar. 9, 2017) The M1A2 Abrams tank is best known for using firepower, maneuverability and shock effect to destroy enemy forces, but at the 22nd Annual 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, Reunion here Friday, it also functioned well as a time machine.
More than 35 years had passed since Richard Shoenrock, a former tank commander for the regiment, had climbed on a tank, but as he stood atop the M1A2 and smiled, for a moment he was right back in Katterbach, Germany, circa 1980.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve done this,” Schoenrock said as he stood on the tank. “I was there from 1978 to 1981, a long time ago. It seems like yesterday.”
More than 80 former Soldiers who served in the regiment gathered here March 2 through 4 for a reunion that included seeing two tanks at the battalion headquarters, a lunch with their present-day counterparts, a tour of the motor pool and the Fort Bliss Simulation Center, the dedication of a regimental room and much more.
“We’ve been doing these reunions for over 20 years now, and this is by far the biggest and the best reunion we’ve had so far,” said Mike Belzile, a former platoon leader, executive officer and battalion adjutant for the regiment from 1991 to 1994 in Vilseck, Germany. “It’s a homecoming with the unit, which is really special.”
Lt. Col. Kenneth Braeger, commander, 1st Bn., 37th Armor Regt., 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, said it was great veterans of the regiment had a chance to talk with current Soldiers.
“We don’t want that heritage to get lost, and it’s really rekindled here as we bring these veterans in,” Braeger said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Stevie Jones, command sergeant major, 1st Bn., 37th AR, 2nd BCT, 1st AD, said he learned a lot talking to the regiment’s former command sergeants major.
“A lot of these guys were in Vietnam and they have some great stories that I’ve definitely learned from,” Jones said. “I can actually use them in the future in my endeavors as a command sergeant major.”
Meanwhile, the reunion gave some former Soldiers time to catch up with old friends.
“We haven’t seen each other in 30 years,” said Bryan Elliot, a tank crewmember with the regiment from 1985 to 1987 in Katterbach, referring to Jim Jones, a gunner who served from 1985 to 1989. The two sat together at lunch and discussed their old platoon and what they’d done since leaving the Army.
Others marveled at the increase in technology on the tanks.
Don Coakley served as a mechanic for the regiment from 1967 to 1969, and said the amount of technology on the tanks had increased immensely.
“We had basic, rudimentary technology back then,” Coakley said. “You had a lot of human input, a lot of control. We didn’t have any computers that I remember – it was 50 years ago. We had to rely on sight and experience.”
Pvt. Benjamin Davis, a tank driver assigned to Company C, 1st Bn., 37th AR, 2nd BCT, 1st AD, spoke with many of the former Soldiers as they looked over the tanks, and he said he appreciated their perspective.
“It was a good experience to learn about all the technology and how far it’s come throughout the whole military,” Davis said. “It’s really cool to see a lot of these people come back and kind of look back on what they’ve done since they were out.”
For more about the “Bandit Battalion,” visit abramsstandards.com.
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