MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines and sailors of Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, conducted a five-day annual training exercise at the Combat Center’s Noble Pass training area April.
1st, 2nd and 3rd Platoons completing the live-fire training exercise that began April 13 and concluded April 18, and tests a platoon’s ability to maneuver across terrain in formations in M1-A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, said Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Baker, the battalion master gunner.
“This is a final gunner evolution for a platoon’s operations,” Baker explained. “Communication, accuracy and employment of weapon systems are key in this exercise.”
The annual training exercise is required of all tank platoons after they have completed exercises testing the function and efficiency of tank crews and tank sections respectively, Baker added.
The live-fire exercise tests a platoon’s ability to maintain formations, hit targets with the correct weapon systems, negotiate terrain, and do it all in a timely manner.
“When you lead with steel, you give infantry guys the ability to take a minimal amount of injuries,” Baker said. “We give max fire power with minimal people.”
Lance Cpl. Christian Reyes, a gunner with first platoon, said he has undergone this training at least three times, but still learns something new each time.
Aside from learning how to navigate in platoon fashion, tankers also learn safe traveling speed in specific terrain, which formations to use when engaging targets and how to work together as a unit.
“When we’re doing these exercises, we learn how to carry on the mission together, even if things go wrong,” said Reyes.
Cpl. Samuel S. Suddarth, a tank loader with first platoon, agreed.
“No matter how many times we do this, we always learn from it,” said Suddarth, a Rockford, Ill., native. “Everyone has to keep their eyes open. For example, the gunners need to make sure they’re paying attention so the gun doesn’t get buried in the sand while we’re moving.”
The tanks use High Explosive Anti-Tanks Warheads, or HEAT rounds, and Projectile Sabot Rounds during this type of training, Suddarth said.
The Sabot round is a 120mm kinetic-energy round that penetrates armored targets, Suddarth explained. It is an inert projectile, whereas HEAT rounds detonate upon impact.
Tanks also use two M240 machine guns, a manned .50-caliber machine gun, and day and night time optics for target engagement, Reyes said.
This exercise, like other training tables, is graded by the unit’s command at the battalion level, said Staff Sgt. Christopher Reely, the platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon.
“At the end of the exercise, we’re graded on what we did well and what we need to work on,” Reely said.
The continuation of these training evolutions helps to assure each company and individual tanker is ready to take on the duties of deployment missions, Reely said.
The battalion expects to continue its training with a similar live-fire and maneuvering exercise this June.