Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. --
“It takes 10 hands to score a basket,”
-John Wooden, former head coach at UCLA, winner of 10 NCAA National Championships (seven in a row).
Alpha Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, put their solidarity to the test during a three-week long training exercise here, Feb. 1-22.
Tanks lined up across the seemingly endless and rough terrain with their smoothbore cannons sighted downrange. Within every M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank are four tank crewmen, each with a specific, yet equally important job required to operate the armored beast.
The tank commander, or TC, gives the signal to fire a round once it is loaded. A TC assumes leadership and responsibility for the vehicle and crew, and is similar to a coach who directs his team’s every move on the court and assures everyone is on the same page.
“Once the crews are comfortable with each other, their work…becomes a lot smoother,” said Sgt. Jabari Stamps, a tank commander with the company. “You’ll see their time of engagements go down and you become a lot more efficient within your tank.”
Tank crew efficiency is crucial to effectively engage an enemy. Stamps, a Chicago native, and his team of Marines improved their skills after successfully launching hundreds of assorted rounds at numerous targets.
A total of 12 tank crews successfully completed their semi-annual gunnery qualifications, all while increasing their gunnery skills. Corporal Richard Brown of Brooklyn, N.Y., said the gunnery exercise was very “helpful” in preparing his Marines for a deployed environment.
“I feel this helps the junior Marines because they come out here and really get to learn their job hands-on,” explained Brown, a gunner with the company. “The training gets the Marines where they need to be to react to a combative situation in a better manner.”
Brown, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, is now second in command behind his TC and is responsible for targeting enemy threats. The TC relies on the gunner, like a coach relies on his team captain, to lead his teammates to victory.
Teamwork is just as important when the tank crew is between missions. It’s up to the tank crew to keep their tank running smoothly by performing hours of maintenance. The monstrous vehicle requires up to 10 hours of maintenance for every hour it is operating.
At the end of the day, however, Marines like Brown and Stamps don’t mind putting in the excruciating hours of maintenance because to them it’s completely worth it.
“My favorite part of the training is just to be around the Marines because you get to just have fun,” concluded Stamps. “This, to me, is one of the most competitive jobs in the Marine Corps because everyone wants to outshoot everybody. Still, anytime you get to come out and shoot this is great and I love it. How many people get to do that?”