Autumn Forge, Sept. 1978...
Autumn Forge, and exercises like it, are possibly the ones that crews enjoy the most. It allows them to maneuver across the German countryside (which is quite beautiful and quaint), while at the same time avoiding the hassles of temporary barracks. The units conduct these exercises in September for two weeks straight, although breaking for the weekend in between when many Germans go on their mini-vacations (Urlaub). Each side marks their vehicles-- the NATO forces with a blue square, and the OPFOR... Opposing Forces... with an orange meatball. At the same time, troops wear colored armbands-- while the action is governed by controllers marked in white. Vehicles considered knocked out are marked with a large yellow nerf ball. These nerf balls became the center of athletic entertainment during the middle weekend, with tanks used to mark the out of bounds for the miniture "football" field. Needless to say, there weren't too many sideline passes!
After the tanks are loaded for the trip, it is time to move out. There is no rail loading here. Instead, the vehilces deploy from their kasernes as if going to war. Prior to this, since orders restricting contact with civilian personnel have been issued, crews load up their vehicles with every conceivable comfort they can imagine... snacks, sodas and the like. Many of these items were loaded into the machine gun ammunition "banana boxes" on the floor of the turret. After being handed a Pepsi by one crew, Ltc. Lettinof (CO 2/32) asked, "what will you do if you have to load MG ammo?" "We'll find a place for the ammo, sir," came the reply.
The photo at left clearly shows the size of the M-60a1s as they move north on Autobahn 5 near Giessen.
TF 2/32 follows the attacks of other elements from the 1st Brigade, 3rd Armored Division. "Enemy" elements fall back southward and the pursuit is rapid.
The tanks move through German villages, forcing civilian traffic from the road!
Once positioned in the Assemby Areas (AAs) near Alsfeld, the attack begins. The 2/32 Armor is placed in reserve for exploitation and doesn't go into action until the second day.
The early morning of the second day.... elements of TF 2/32 begin to move out, shrouded by the early morning fog so prevalent in Europe, especially in the fall. Movement is rapid, since the unit is following the assaults of the previous day.
On the right, an M-60a1 and M-113 with supporting infantry begin to move out.
TF 2/32 moves into the role of movment to contact, prepared to engage enemy elements once discovered. A passage through friendly units is conducted and the task force moves into the lead.
TF 2/32 moves through a German town 18 kilometers from Butzbach... probably the town of Laubach. Capt. Estrada's jeep (B Co.) observes the movement. On the right is a controller's jeep... ever present and watchful.