MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
As the tanks move closer to the starting positions through a muddy, cold field, the crewmen inside feel the pressure rise as adrenaline rushes through their veins. With the command to proceed, the closely-knit Marines forget about the dreary weather conditions and successfully complete their mission.
1st Platoon, Company B, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division is taking part in biannual tank gunnery qualifications here.
The training, scheduled from Jan. 8 - 30, enables the Marines to complete a required tank operating qualification with the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. An added benefit of this is increased unit cohesion.
“One of the major reasons for this training is to get the four-man crews to work well together,” said Sgt. Tye Logan, an M1A1 tank gunner with the platoon. “It’s great being out here and firing 122 mm rounds, but my favorite part of training is being with the Marines.”
Many Marines in the platoon said they felt the same way as Logan. The Marines said they were grateful for being in an environment where everyone was close.
“The bond and closeness comes with being part of the crew,” said Staff Sgt. Bobby Tyner, the master gunnery for Company B. “The four crewmen can be inside a tank for more than 12 hours at times. It really does become a little family. The staff sergeant is like the dad, the gunner is like a brother and so on. I got to know everything about my crew and their families.”
Master Sgt. Steven Heath, the battalion’s assistant operations chief, said the training consisted of simulated combat scenarios with the aid of the Advanced Gunnery Training Systems, a computerized interactive modulator
“The AGTS is designed mainly to simulate a tank commander and gunner’s position set up inside a small trailer,” Heath said. “It’s kind of like a ‘souped up’ (video game system). It helps you work out the bugs without firing live rounds.”
Short-range firing between 1,200 and 2,400 meters and multiple situations involving engagements and setups inside the tank round up the 23-day evolution.
The weather stayed cold and rainy during the first portion of the training, but Heath said the Marines are performing tremendously in all aspects.
“The weather hasn’t been holding up for us, but the Marines are fighting through it,” he said.
“They’ve been making minimal mistakes and the company is really coming together.”
According to Heath, the inclement weather hasn’t made a large impact on the platoon’s progress, “but it did degrade us.”
“The only reason it slowed us down is because we wanted everyone to see what the crews were doing so they could get the benefit of the doubt and be graded properly,” he said. “If we can’t see the target, obviously we can’t grade them.”
And the bad weather brings realism to the training. “Training here is essential to being able to perform when you’re in an actual combat situation,” Heath said. “The engagements the Marines are doing out here are based off of what they might see in a combat environment.”
Regardless of the outcome of the training, Heath said he wants the Marines to leave with one more weapon in their arsenal. “I want the Marines to walk away from here with increased confidence in their ability, their crew and their vehicle. If you have confidence in all of the above, then that carries over to an outstanding performance on the battlefield.”