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Tanks fire down range at the Tiger Competition at the 4th Tank Battalion Compound in Boise, Idaho Aug. 6, 2011. The competition included the best crew from every tank battalion in the Marine Corps to compete and represent their battalion.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah Dietz

Tanks compete for top shooter in Corps, bragging rights

2 Sep 2011 | Lance Cpl. Sarah Dietz

The top crew in each of the Corp’s tank battalions traveled to Boise, Idaho, for the annual Tiger Competition Aug. 6, 2011.

The Marine tank community is a small one. There are only three battalions, two active duty and one reserve.

The event brought the battalions together for a tank shoot out to determine the best and most lethal crew in the Corps. The victors also left with year-long bragging rights.

“This is absolutely a great opportunity to train with Marines from around the tank community,” said Cpl. Joe Lombardo, the gunner for the 1st Tanks crew. “I’ve never known a brotherhood like I’ve known in tanks.”

The competition began as an annual event. High manpower requirements during Operation Iraqi Freedom forced the tankers to cancel future meets. Last year was the first time the contest was held in nearly seven years.

The course of fire included main and machine gun fire; movement; nuclear biological and chemical fire, which includes firing with gas masks on; impaired sites; and firing from offensive and defensive positions. The crews fired upon simulated tank and infantry targets.

The crews competing in Tiger Comp had to first prove they were worthy of representing their units by beating every crew in their own battalions.

“This is like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Sgt. Michael McClain, the loader for the 2nd Tanks crew in the competition. “It’s not common to come to Tiger Comp, especially since they just restarted it. It was great, I think they should make it longer.”

In spite of the playful smack talk and insults thrown back and forth, the Marines of the tank community displayed a sense of brotherhood few could put into words.

“You come to look at these guys like brothers,” Duff said. “Because we are so small, we all rely on each other.”

A week before the competition, the crews practiced firing on the range, getting to know the area where they would shoot. The crews shot M1A1 Abrams tanks, with Multipurpose Antitank and sabot rounds.

While firing, the Marines not only locked-on their shooting, but also locked-on their relationships with each other, while keeping a combat mindset.

“Making a competent well-rounded tank crew is our goal,” said Sgt. Melvin Wilson, tank commander for the 1st Tanks crew. “Training here preps us for combat. If we train in different areas like this, we can do it anywhere, catch the ball? I’m glad we came.”

The competition was extremely close, and 2nd Tank Battalion out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene, N.C., pulled ahead the Combat Center’s 1st Tanks by one shot, winning the competition and forcing 1st Tanks to go home as second place winners. The Reserve Marines of 4th Tank Battalion, out of Fort Knox, Ky., was relegated to third.

“Tankers are extremely competitive,” said Maj. Jared Duff, the executive officer for 1st Tanks. “Being good at gunnery is important, and tankers take it personally. It’s a pride thing and a sense of fulfillment. It’s what our infantry brothers need us to do.”

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