Logan Bontrager Competes in Tank Competition
by Guy Thompson
Photos by Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer – Ft. Benning, GA
Specialist Logan Bontrager enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from Northridge High School in 2014. He knew he wanted to go into the service, and selected the Army as it allowed him to choose the job he wanted to train for. He picked tanks.
According to Bontrager, he was going to sign up for another job but saw a video about working in the armored divisions of the Army. “I could see how cool it was driving around,” he said recently while visiting home on leave.
Bontrager, the son of Troy and Angela Bontrager, knew that was what he wanted to pursue. He went to training at Ft. Benning, Ga., and became a tank crewman. He trained for over 16 weeks, which included both basic training and tank training. There are four positions on each tank crew: driver, loader, gunner and tank commander. Bontrager was the driver on his team. “The view is very small,” he noted. The first time he drove the tank through the motor pool, around the other vehicles, was a little nervous.
But the experience was even better than he thought it would be from watching that first video. “And the first time you feel a round go off is pretty intense,” he said.
Bontrager was stationed at Ft. Riley, Kan., as part of the 1st Brigade, 3-66 Armor Battalion, Bravo Co. Along with their normal duties, Bontrager and his tank crew began doing additional training for a special competition, the Sullivan Cup, a competition held at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Armor School at Ft. Benning in Georgia. The competition pits teams from the U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, National Guard and international teams in a series of events to find the best tank crew.
This year’s contest was held May 2-6, and at the end of the contest Bontrager and his crew were second, with a single missed target the difference between them and first place.
“It starts with the physical competition,” Bontrager said. “There are different stations, lifting rounds, a one-mile run, moving the track pads 40 yards and stacking them.” There were also maintenance challenges such as changing the tank track pads.
Then the contest turned to the range, where crews were tested over several days on time and accuracy in hitting targets. Only the top five teams moved on to the final shoot-off. The winning team, a National Guard tank crew, hit 14 targets in the final shoot-off. The crew from Ft. Riley hit 13, Bontrager said. As the winning team was with the reserves, the placing meant that his crew was the top active duty tank crew in the U.S. Army.
“The most challenging part was the range,” Bontrager said. “It was so huge compared to Ft. Riley and had a lot more vegetation.” Some of the targets the crew had to hit were around 2 kilometers away. “It’s harder to see them with the hilly terrain,” he added. “Plus, there are moving targets.” But the crew works very well together, he said, and the four of them had clicked quickly when they started.
Following the competition, an awards banquet was held where the crew met with generals and officers. Shortly after the competition, Bontrager was promoted to Specialist. The competition has also helped him decide to remain in the Army for now. “It’s a big step in my career,” he said.
Following his leave in July, Bontrager was looking ahead to training in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. In October, he will be deployed to South Korea.
“I got used to being away from home,” he said as he prepares to go overseas for the first time with the Army. “I feel it will be a good experience.”
And he’ll always have the award from the Sullivan Cup as he moves ahead in his career with the U.S. Army.