This article appeared in the June 4, 1999
issue of the Observation Post, the base newspaper for
Twentynine Palms, California.
1stLt Jason D. Grose
1st Tank Bn Adjutant
Sixty-eight tons of steel rumble forward to a position
to engage its target. Anticipation of the impending explosion
is thick in the air while its four-man crew identifies its
target and waits for the tank commander to give the order
to fire. When the order is given, a wave of pressure coupled
with a fiery explosion from the main gun tube appears an instant
before the deafening "boom" fills the senses. As
the fireball races down-range at an incomprehensible speed,
witnesses are awed to see what few people ever get to see:
a main round firing from the gun tube of an M1A1 Battle Tank.
Such was the scene recently at the Combat Center's Lake
Emerson Training area. "A" Co., 1st Tank Bn., was
training on "Tank Table XII," which tests the platoon's
individual skill at engaging targets in a simulated combat
Led by Capt. Christopher Guarnieri, "A" Co.
Commander, the Marines qualified on this range in order to
stay in top combat condition. Guarnieri's right-hand enlisted
Marine, known by the coveted title of "Master Gunner,"
was represented by a rugged tanker named SSgt John Allen.
Under the company commander's general guidance, the master
gunner creates scenarios and controls the targets the tanks
are to engage.
Also helping out Guarnieri was 2ndLt Ethan Harding, who
acted as the eyes for the evaluators while the other tank
commanders reacted to the scenarios imposed on them by the
highly skilled team. Although still somewhat new to the tank
community, Harding's skill has proven him to be trusted with
missions usually reserved for more senior tankers.
For the new tank commanders, such as 2ndLt Andrew
Dirkes who has been at 1st Tank Bn. for less than two weeks,
the training was invaluable. The importance of getting to
know his crew and working with them under combat conditions
was something that could not be "walked through"
Despite all of this leadership, it still comes down to
the enlisted Marines that comprise 75 percent (and many times
100 percent) of the crews to accomplish the mission. These
hardworking men consistently work under the most arduous conditions
to keep the Battalion ready at all times to win in battle.
They maintain, arm, fire, and maneuver these moving fortresses
with amazing skill, often devoting long hours without reward.
As this story ends, Marines board their HMWWVs to head
toward the rear. Barely noticing our departure, the company
commander and master gunner are busy directing the tanks and
setting up for the next target. They will be working early
into the morning.
As the Marines head back, they once again hear the voice
of the tank bidding them farewell as Guarnieri and his crew
continue their work.
1st Tank Bn. once again lived up its reputation as the
unit that places "Steel on Target."