For 1st Lt. Bill Walker of the Army's "Hell on Wheels" Division in this drowsy farm hamlet, swapping his old Volkswagen bug for a spiffy new Audi was not nearly as exciting as the transition from old M60 tanks to the M1 Abrams tank.
"The soldiers just do unnatural acts with the tank. They just love it," Col. Ronald L. Baker Jr., assistant division commander, said. "It shoots better on the move than it shoots stationary."
In fact, Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Tait said, his 2nd Armored Division now thinks of tanks the way strategists used to think of attack helicopters. "It's that fast and agile," Tait added.
But with the M1's tactical promise has come some of the logistical pain common to helicopters. The M1 guzzles more fuel, shreds more track, gobbles more spare parts -- in short, burns up more cash than any fighting vehicle the Army previously owned.
In this brigade alone, where the M1 uses an average of about seven gallons of diesel to the mile, fuel consumption more than doubled to 103,000 gallons a month when M1s replaced M60s.
Throughout the Army, M1 depot repair costs will be 10 times that of the M60, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and the Army expects the cost of spares per tank to double. In peacetime, the M1's appetite can be sated as long as Congress is willing to feed it dollars. "It's complex, but it's not beyond the capability of our soldiers to operate and maintain," Baker said.
Already, though, soldiers in Garlstedt fret that the Army is mulling over a money-saving cap on training time called TEMPO, just as the Air Force rations pilots' flying hours. And in war, the Army will pay more than a financial tariff for the 60-ton tank's speed and power.
Only two M1s can fit on a C5A cargo plane, for example, and transporting them will be only the beginning.
The Army wants 1,000 Armored Combat Earthmovers at nearly $1 million apiece. They are glorified bulldozers built for autobahn speed to keep up with the Abrams. A new fleet of fuel trucks is arriving to keep the tanks topped off, and the Army is developing a giant tow truck, in part because the M1's exhaust is so fiery that one tank cannot tow another without melting part of it.
Then there is the Little Joe, an auxiliary power pack that will be tacked to the M1 to cut fuel use while the tank idles. Finally, no M1 will be complete without 22 manuals telling crews how to shoot, scoot and fix.
The M1 Abrams, however, is so complicated that many repairs must be performed in the rear. For the Hell on Wheels division, that means a 736-mile round trip to southern Germany for radios or 586 miles for new wheels. "In the peacetime environment, we don't have too much of a problem because I put vehicles on the road to southern Germany all the time," Tait said.
And in war? "About all I can tell you, I guess, is it'd be kind of hard."