U.S. Army armored units have come a long way since their infancy during the early days of World War II. Lots of lessons have been learned and applied since then, from the rapid evolution of technology to improved training. Some things have stayed the same though, especially the importance of having a crew be well-trained. Sgt. Maj. LeRoy Hinton entered the Army in 1982 as an infantryman, before transitioning to become an M2 Bradley crew member in 1989. During his time in the Army, Hinton was an instructor and master gunner (1989-2008), and an exchange NCO to the British Army, and rose up to the rank of sergeant major.
A native of Ethelsville, Ala., Hinton is a graduate of the Primary Leadership Development Course, Jungle Warfare School, Basic Leadership Development Course, Master Gunner Course, Instructor Training Course, Basic Airborne School, Advanced Leadership Development Course, Battle Staff, The British Army Instructor School and Cadre Course, First Sergeant Course and the Sergeant Major Academy. He also holds an Associates degree in General Studies from Barton Community College, a Bachelors degree in Liberal Arts and Business Administration from Excelsior College, Masters Degree in Human Resource Development from Webster University, and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
Hinton’s awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal with nine Oak Leaf Clusters, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and the Parachutist Badge. He currently works as the Business Manager for Akima Facilities Management in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He recently spoke with Steven Hoarn to discuss his time in the Army, evolutions in training and technology, and what the future of armored units may look like.
Steven Hoarn: I got the idea for this interview after the World War II Armor Training in Color photo slideshow that we ran on Defense Media Network. Obviously a lot has changed since 1942, but what lessons or traditions from that time period do you think are still carried on by today’s Army armored units?
Sgt. Maj. LeRoy Hinton: Some of the formations that they used back in World War II are the basis for a lot of the formations we use now with our armored fighting vehicles. The basic line formation, we use that. The wedge formation is kind of a modification of some of the old things that they did back then. That’s one of the things, some of the formations we use have stayed the same.
The biggest change is definitely the technology and the type of equipment we have now, what it is able to withstand, and what it is able to dish out. The equipment we have now is just so much more superior and sophisticated than what they had back in World War II.
World War II forced the Army into accelerating the training pipeline for those serving in armor units. From that perspective, what they were able to achieve on the battlefield was amazing. From your experience, what does it take in terms of time to prepare a new recruit for service in an armor unit today and how much time does it take for a new crew to come together and to become proficient?
I’ll start with talking about a new recruit. I was an infantry guy my entire career and we did the 14-week one station unit training, where you did six-weeks of basic training and then your eight weeks of advanced training. That’s good for the initial part of it, but when you get into a unit and you want to be a member of a crew it really takes about a year to have a crew up to a proficiency level where I would consider them to be a top gun crew. Now an average crew, six months of training with a brand new soldier can get them familiar.
The way our crews work is that you come into the crew as a driver, you don’t come into the crew as a gunner. You start off as a driver. You drive for awhile and then you move up to be the assistant gunner and train on that for a while. Then you move on to be the gunner. So all this really happens in about a one-year period.