By Staff Sgt. Meillettis Patton, 1st MEB
FORT POLK, La. – Chains, wrenches, pipes, pliers and hammers are just few tools used in most recovery operations and the Soldiers of the 46th Engineer Battalion know them well.
Vehicle recovery operation can be tricky ---- the recovery team has to be prepared for different terrain, vehicles and weather. They must come prepared with contingency plans and backup equipment.
This is what the Soldiers in 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade discovered while recovering a Sherman tank from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post I in Many, La.
The 46th Eng Bn Soldiers, along with those from the 88th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, convoyed to Many Sept. 12 to recover a World War II-era M4 Sherman Tank to be displayed at the Fort Polk Museum.
The tank is from the 1940s, said Danny Lopez, a Vietnam veteran and member of the VFW that donated the tank to the museum. Lopez said he thinks the museum will take good care of it.
"We don't want it to deteriorate. We want it to be a proud (part of history) that people can learn about," said Larry Perser, VFW post commander.
Moving the Sherman from its position would test the skills of the 1st MEB recovery team.
"The convoy wasn't difficult at all," said Capt. Brandon O. Frederick, support operations transportation officer, 88th BSB. "The hard part was actually getting the Sherman tank to roll up on the trailer."
Plan one failed when the cable from the M-88 Hercules (track recovery vehicle) broke while attempting to lift the Sherman from its position onto a M-916A3 (light equipment transporter) that would be carrying it back to Fort Polk. "Now for round two," said Frederick, as the noise from vehicle engines and exhaust smoke filled the air.
The WWII Sherman weighs around 33.4 tons. It had been stationary for years which made moving it difficult. The recovery team came equipped with several vehicles, tools and two escort HMMWVs for the lead and rear of the convoy.
The recovery team tried to use a HEMTT wrecker (M984) to move the Sherman from its position but found the tracks were seized up. "We went through about three different plans," said Frederick. "Plan three worked. We got it to move. Next, we put an M-88 Hercules (track recovery vehicle) out front which used a lot of horsepower to pull the tank from its resting area," said Frederick.
There were a few hiccups, said Staff Sgt. Paul G. Vanderlugt, 687th Engineer Company, 46th Eng Bn. "We had a couple of contingency plans in place and everything worked out with no safety incidents," he said.
This was a chance for different units from 1st MEB to work as one, said Vanderlugt.
"Soldiers in 88th BSB and the 46th got together and everything went like a well-oiled machine because of our training," said Vanderlugt.
The Fort Polk Museum plans to restore and maintain the Sherman tank and place it on display.
"Anytime you can bring back and preserve some of the history of the U.S. Army, its always a great thing," said Vanderlugt. "This was also a great opportunity to work with the community of Many, La., and surrounding areas of Fort Polk," said Frederick.
"We had a lot of great help from the local police department of Many and Florein. They provided police escorts to the VFW, which was greatly appreciated."
This was a chance for Soldiers to really see something different from their normal military occupational specialties, said Vanderlugt.