MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Tanks are some of the more intimidating weapons in the Marine Corps arsenal. The sight of a massive 70-ton tank rolling down a street can put fear in the most strong-willed of fighters.
In Iraq, tanks are used in a variety of ways, from patrols along main supply routes to operations inside cities. Convoys make up a large percentage of the tanks operations, like the majority of units in Iraq
The Marines of 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division created a convoy operations course here using lessons and tactics they learned from their recent deployments. The course is designed to better prepare them for their upcoming deployment to Iraq. Company C ran through the course June 20, at range SR-10 as part of their pre-deployment training package.
“It’s something different we have incorporated,” said Staff Sgt. James M. Sturla, a 27-year-old from Pompton Plains, N.J. “We created this new course because this is how we were operating in Iraq, and we hadn’t had any type of training on it before.”
The course began with a section of two tanks staging at the base of the observation tower and loading weapons as if they were preparing to leave a friendly base. The section then proceeded down the road in a tactical column until they encountered an ambush from the left flank.
“At that point the section leader must determine how to tactically employ his section in order to destroy the ambush,” said Staff Sgt. Jason L. Pittsley, a 28-year-old Hamilton, N.Y., native.
The section resumed their convoy after dealing with the ambush. They encountered two more ambushes, one to their left front and one to their right flank. The ambush to their left front required the second tank in the column to fire from extremely close proximity to the front tank.
“Working together as a section in a column formation is going to be a major part of our combat operations in Iraq,” added Pittsley, the platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon.
The Marines are dealing with narrow streets and close range targets instead of open fields and distant targets. With such narrow confines the tanks are not able to operate side-by-side; they will be forced to stay in a column formation.
“The current tactics being used in Iraq closely resemble the way we train and fight our sections here on SR-10 and will be of great benefit while we are operating in the field,” Pittsley added.
This is the tankers last opportunity to train before their deployment. The convoy course was one of the final training evolutions for the unit. For Pittsley, the time spent on the range was well worth it.
“There’s no simulated training that can take the place of firing live gun rounds,” he stated with a smile on his face.