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Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
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The tank of Maj. David Bardorf, the battalion executive officer for 1st Tank Battalion fires its main gun during the final exercise of the battalion’s combined arms exercise known as Steel Knight. The battalion trained in conjunction with multiple other units Dec. 6 through 12.

Photo by Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

1st Tanks blows away Steel Knight

24 Dec 2008 | Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

In conjunction with various other units from 1st Marine Division, 1st Tank Battalion underwent the training evolution known as Steel Knight at the Combat Center Dec. 6 through 12.

The exercise is a large-scale combined arms exercise designed to train different types of units, which included artillery, fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, tanks and amphibious tracked vehicles, combat engineers, and infantry, said Sgt. Maj. Conrad Potts, the battalion sergeant major.

Potts added Steel Knight is great training and very important for his battalion.

“It is the culmination of all the training that goes into a CAX,” said Potts, who comes from Louisville, Ky. “It’s meant to make sure we can all work together as a team with other units. We can exercise our core competency at the MAGTF [Marine Air Ground Task Force] level. It’s good training to get us used to accomplishing our objective in conjunction with other units.”

Potts elaborated on the extent of the entire exercise and described the various types of training conducted by the battalion.

“We have a lot of down time and smaller scenarios where it gives the individual sections time to rehearse for the final exercise,” said Potts before the training culmination. “During the final exercise though, it’s going to be impressive with all the other elements we’re going to see from the other units and weapon systems.

“There’s MCLC’s [Mine Clearing Line Charges] that are going to go off when the tanks are breaching burms on their push forward during the training,” Potts said as he highlighted some aspects of the training. “We’re going to have an entire battalion of tanks firing and then moving -- lots of artillery and air. It should be a good show.”

Potts talked in depth about the other units involved in the training.

“Other than just us out here, there are multiple other units in support of the operation,” he said. “India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment is out here, along with elements of both 1st and 3rd CEB [Combat Engineer Battalion]. Elements of both 1st and 3rd LAR [Light Armored Reconnaissance] are also here along with parts of 3rd AABn [Amphibian Assault Battalion].  Fixed and rotary-wing aircraft are out here from several squadrons. Also, all of 11th Marine regiment is here supporting the exercise. They are giving us our artillery support.”

Marines who were on the ground participating in the exercise were those like Cpl. Luke Taylor, a radio operator with Company C, 1st Tanks, who comes from Seattle.

“There’s a whole bunch of different units out here right now,” Taylor said. “It’s a huge CAX . It’s great training for the tankers.  Charlie Company; they’re the next to deploy. I think it’s going to be a good workup for them to gain some experience.”

Other members of 1st Tanks did their part in the exercise, the new battalion medical officer, Lt. Cmdr. Marc Dobson, spoke highly of the exercise, and how impressive and complex it was.

“I haven’t been with Tanks for even a month, and already this is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in my career,” said Dobson, who comes from Decatur, Ga. “Not a lot of people get to see stuff like this.  It’s really impressive to see how complex and interesting an operation like this one is. It takes a lot of coordination, and you see how important every job in the Marine Corps is.”

Dobson added he really enjoys his job.

“There’s a lot of worse ways to make a living,” he said. “It’s great that this is what we’re all paid to do.”

The Steel Knight exercise, which plays counterpart to the battalion’s summer exercise, Summer Heat has been held since the 1990’s.

The Marines and sailors with 1st Tanks will spend the holiday resting with friends and families before thundering back into their training schedule in January.

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms