MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- It was a gloomy morning at the SR-10 range here today, however the Marines of 2nd Tank Battalion who received the Tankers of the Year Award from the Marine Corps Tankers Association overshadowed the weather.
Cpl. Jaime Davis of Headquarters and Service Company, Sgt. Windell Morgan of Company A, Sgt. James Gibbons of Company B, Sgt. Thomas Deloach of Company C and Lance Cpl. Zachary Williams of Company D all received the Tanker of the Year Award for fiscal year 2005.
These five Marines were selected by the Tankers Association for outstanding performance throughout the year and while they were deployed to Iraq.
The Tankers Association is made up of former tankers who are gathered together from all over the United States. The men who usually display their red Marine Corps jackets with patches showing where they have been and what they have done, came together to present the awards at the 21st Annual Tanker of the Year Award ceremony.
One of the former tankers, retired Col. C.R. “Casey” Casey, former commanding officer of 2nd Tanks who awarded the Marines, described what it was like at the ceremony.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these Marines who are phenomenal at what they do. It gives you a lot of pride to recognize their expertise and performances. Not just tankers, but all Marines. We are truly humbled to be in their presence,” Casey said.
The Marines who received the awards felt the same amount of pride, but according to two of them, they felt it just a little bit more.
“It was a great honor to receive this award from the men who fought for our freedom before most of us were even born,” explained Sgt. James Gibbons, 26, a tanker from Dallas, Texas.
“It was even more of an honor for us to receive it from them for fighting to give that same freedom back to them,” continued Sgt. Windell Morgan, 23, from Folkston, Ga.
Morgan, a 2000 graduate of Charlton County High School, was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq during Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004 where his mission along with the rest of the tankers was to provide superior fire support for the infantrymen on the ground.
“It was an experience I’ll never forget, just as today was as well,” Morgan said.
Gibbons, a 1997 Scurry High School graduate, was deployed to Fallujah from March to October 2005 where his mission was to set up entry control points, be on the quick reaction force, search for weapons caches and conduct sweeps for mines and IEDs throughout the city.
“My mission out there was a little different from Sergeant Morgan’s, but we still conducted ourselves professionally and to the best of our ability,” Gibbons explained.
After the award ceremony, the Marines and the MCTA veterans were able to socialize, share “sea stories,” build camaraderie and the veterans were able to see the capabilities of today’s tank battalion.
A static display of tanks and high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV) was there for the Marines to show the MCTA members and a live fire platoon battle run was conducted for them as well.
The Marines and MCTA vets spent the entire day together touring Camp Lejeune and went to a banquet dinner the next evening.
Overall, the Marines described the two days with the MCTA members as being an outstanding time and experience.
“It was awesome to receive this award from them and spending time with these former tankers who fought so bravely during their time in, and I think that they appreciate what we’re doing today in the War on Terrorism,” Morgan explained as he shook Casey’s hand.