MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Silence stretched across the open terrain as the faint sound of turbine engines rose to a ground-shaking thunder as M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks roared onto Range SR-10.
Marines with Charlie Company, 3rd Tank Platoon, 2nd Tank Battalion, rained machine gun and cannon fire down on targets at the SR-10 range on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., during their semi annual gunnery qualification exercise, March 17, 2010.
Twice a year the tank Marines head to the range to qualify as a crew in the gunnery. The crews have to qualify by firing 10 different qualification exercises including accuracy, distribution of fire and overall effectiveness of engaging targets using combat techniques, according to Gunnery Sgt. Manuel Herrera, platoon sergeant with Company C, 3rd Tank Platoon, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.
“Gunnery helps train the Marines how to go into combat, and it’s extremely important because it teaches them everything about fighting in the tanks,” said Gunnery Sgt. Myron Tapio, company master gunner with Company C, 3rd Tank Platoon, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. “It teaches them basic gunnery skills and the fire and command techniques used in controlling their tanks.”
Although gunnery is a mandatory qualifying exercise these Marines have to go through, in truth it’s just another chance for them to maintain proficiency of their craft.
“You have no idea how important this training is,” said Herrera. “We do this type of training all the time, but gunnery is an atrophying type skill; you have to train continuously and religiously or you’ll lose it faster than you can imagine.”
Herrera says another important training aspect of the gunnery is that it gives the members of each crew more opportunities to work together and learn how to work as a team.
“We try to make a very robust training schedule to keep the Marines in the tanks, keep them training and keep them focused because the crews are the gunnery, the tactics and the maintenance that make these tanks useful,” said Herrera. “That tank is everything; it’s your home, it’s your weapon, and it’s your lifeline to everything.”
It’s easy to see the Marines realize the importance of the time they get to train and know how to put it to good use. With mandatory training events like gunnery, these Marines will be ready anytime they’re called upon to put their skills to use when they’re needed most.