MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marines from Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division celebrated their victory in the Marine Corps wide gunnery contest August 23 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
2nd Tank Battalion was one of three battalions to enter the competition August 4-8 in Boise, Idaho, but ultimately the one to walk away with the first place trophy.
“There were 163 tank crews competing, and each battalion sent the best crew they had to offer,” explained Maj. Robert J. Bodisch, acting battalion commander for 2nd Tanks. “Out of those crews, only one was able to come out on top.”
During three long days preceding the actual qualification day, 2nd Tank Battalion, the defending champions in the competition, honed their skills on an unfamiliar course.
“The range we shot on was much larger than anything we have in Camp Lejeune,” said Cpl. Michael T. Angelo, a tank crewman who was part of the winning crew. “The range also didn’t have thermal tape on the targets, and when your tank uses thermal sights, it makes it more difficult to hit a designated target.”
Although the course may have been tougher than what the Marines usually face, Gunnery Sgt. Darrell R. Penyak, a tank crewman who lead the victorious crew, said he went in knowing they had a serious advantage.
“Between the three battalions, we were the only one who had a master gunner,” said Penyak. “That was a huge advantage right out of the gate.”
Penyak was the only Marine in the competition who had attended the U.S. Army’s M1A1 Master Gunners Course. The 55 day course covers everything from complex maintenance to the development of a unit’s annual gunnery qualification.
The Marines of 1st and 4th Tank Battalions may not have had master gunners, but they still managed to give 2nd Tanks Battalion a run for its money, with each of the battalions finishing within around 20 points of each other out of a 600 point maximum.
“Even though it’s a competition, we have fun with all these guys,” said Penyak. “The tank community is a small one – a brotherhood really – so it was a friendly competition.”
When the scores finally came in, and the tank crew from 2nd Tank Battalion was informed they had won for the second year in a row, they were in very good spirits.
“We brought the trophy to Idaho in case we lost so we could hand it to the next winner,” said Angelo. “Not having to lose it felt really good. This is like the all-star game of tanks, and we won.”
The Marines spent time posing in front of the tank with their prize, the Robert H. McCard Cup. The award was named after a Marine Gunnery Sergeant who received the Medal of Honor (posthumously) for his actions during the Battle of Saipan in World War II.
“It’s not just winning this award that’s important,” said Bodisch. “We want to show every infantry unit the destructive power that we can bring to the battlefield. We want to show the entire Marine Corps the fighting spirit of this battalion.”