CAMP LEJEUNE, NC, UNITED STATES --
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A sadness radiated as veterans from past battles stood proud with warriors still in uniform, watching as the last set of tanks left Camp Lejeune for the very last time. U.S. Marines with 2d Tank Battalion, 2d MARDIV waved goodbye one final time to M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, July 31, 2020.
“It’s Hard to see them go away. I grew up in tanks, I became a man in tanks,” said Sgt. Reginald Davenport, a tank commander with 2d Tank Battalion, 2d Marine Division (MARDIV). “Pretty much everything I learned about being an adult, I learned from someone in tanks.
The ceremony was attended by current active duty Marines of the battalion and Marines whom served in the past. In accordance with Marine Corps Force Design 2030, 2d Tank Battalion is being deactivated after 79 years of service to optimize the Marine Corps’ ability to conduct naval expeditionary warfare. This moment, although bittersweet to many, is the next step in the transition of the Marine Corps into a lighter, more reactive force.
“We must divest of legacy capabilities that do not meet our future requirements, regardless of their past efficacy,” noted Gen. David H. Berger, 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “There is no piece of equipment or major defense program that defines us.”
Berger said the new force design is his main priority and that it will secure the Marine Corps’ spot as the world’s premiere warfighting institution. As 2d Tank Battalion continues the process of deactivation, hopes for a future for tanks prevails among tankers.
“It breaks my heart knowing that the legacy of Marine Corps tankers will not live on,” said retired Master Sgt. Jason Pittsley, a veteran of 23 years and former Marine Corps tanker.
For many the reality did not sink in until this morning as they watched the tanks slowly roll away on the railroad tracks.
“This is the moment it actually hit me like tanks is really going away, there’s no stopping it now, it’s real after this,” said Davenport.
As for the dedicated tankers of the “Iron Horse Battalion” of 2d MARDIV, they will be given the opportunity to move into other military occupational specialties in the Marine Corps or continuing with tanks in other branches. Leaving behind the long tradition of 2d Tank Battalion won’t prove easy for many but the leadership of the battalion is set to ensure the Marines are well taken care of.
“There are Marines who have fought and died in these tanks; however, these Marines will transition from here to different careers and do wonderful things. It’s a new beginning and I’m happy for them,” said Lt. Col Matthew A. Dowden, commanding officer, 2d Tank Battalion. “I’m anxiously waiting for what’s in store for these Marines because it’s not about the tanks, it’s about the tankers.”