MUSA QA’LEH, Afghanistan --
As a young boy, Matthew Moores would spend hours playing with tanks, driving around small toy soldiers on the floor of his home in Newark, Delaware.
Moores, 29, said growing up he had a fascination with tanks, specifically the M1A1 Abrams tank. He promised himself he would one day have a tank to call his own.
After graduating high school from the Charter School of Wilmington in 2002, Moores worked as a banker, before he decided to pursue his childhood dream and join the Marine Corps. Moores said he was hesitant to join at first because he was told he couldn’t enlist directly into a tank unit.
“I remember sitting in the recruiter’s office and he asked me what job I might like,” said Moores. “I immediately said I want to be a tanker, but he said I couldn’t join as a tanker. He said I would have to join as combat arms.”
Moores decided to roll the dice and went to recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island S.C. with only the possibility of becoming a tanker. Moores said his wish was granted after he graduated boot camp and his drill instructor told him he was going to Fort Knox, Ky., to become a M1A1 Abrams tank crewman.
“I could have jumped for joy,” said Moores, who is now a corporal serving with 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. “It was like my dreams were coming true.”
Moores said he studied hard and learned as much as he could while at school because he wanted to know as much about the tank as possible. He graduated at the top of his class.
Lance Cpl. Jesse “Cheddar” Robson, the loader in Moores’ tank crew, said Moores is very knowledgeable and motivated about his job. Robinson said Moores desire to learn about tanks and his enthusiasm is why he is “the best gunner in the battalion.”
Robson, a 20 year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y., said whenever he has a question about tanks he goes to Moores because of his experience.
Moores gained a majority of his experience on his first deployment as an attachment to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit off the Libyan Coast in 2011.
Even with all the experience and knowledge Moores, who is currently attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, has, Helmand Province, Afghanistan is a dangerous place even for the 74-tons of steel that he operates because of IEDs.
Moores said a few months ago he and his tank crew were escorting a convoy when an insurgent detonated an improvised explosive device while his tank “Iron Maiden” was passing over it.
“It actually shocked me when we triggered the IED, but I had to ensure everyone was safe in the tank,” said Moores. “After I know everyone was safe, I was kind of heartbroken because I knew that my tank was going to be out of commission for a while.”
Moores said he is on his second tank, which he fittingly named Mulligan, but added that the Iron Maiden will be back in the fight soon after some repairs. He also said hitting the IED simply reinforced his love for the tank.
“I will continue to be a tanker and work with these awesome machines,” said Moores. “I have always loved tanks and honestly I think I always will.”