Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
A tank battalion is a brotherhood. They are the only ones who can truly understand each other. Their community is small, powerful and close. They are family.
Sgt. Brian Alloway and his crew have been working together for about two months. Their crew was formed shortly after they returned from Afghanistan in September 2012. The transition was shaky for the crew, but even in their short amount of time, they grew in cohesion.
Alloway, tank commander, White 3, Alpha Company for 1st Tank Battalion, said that this was the first time he worked with this specific group.
Inside the metal monster is roughly a six foot by eight foot space where the four-man crew controls the tank and works together as a sleek, well-oiled machine.
The driver controls and maneuvers the tank into position, while the loader pulls a round and places it into the chamber. Then the gunner places the cannon on target and waits for the command to fire.
The tank commander directs and oversees it all. He has a 360 degree view of the battlefield. He directs the driver, sets up sectors of fire for the gunner, and sets the tone for his crew. He communicates with other tank commanders with him as he oversees all activity in his tank, keeping his Marines on point.
The gunner has a unique responsibility in the tank. He takes care of the loader and driver, as well as takes charge of maintaining the tank.
“It’s a big responsibility to keep track and maintain a tank,” said Cpl. Jose L. Hernandez, gunner, White 3, Co. A, 1st Tanks. “It’s my responsibility to take care of the driver and loader as well; anything wrong with them I have to report it up. Not only am I filling a billet, I’m taking care of a tank and I’m taking care of two Marines. It’s a big responsibility but I like responsibility.”
“As a tank commander, I need to be hands off because the gunner’s billet, it’s really ‘his tank.’ I just let him know what needs to get done,” Alloway said. “In the beginning, it was kind of shaky, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in him but he proved himself to me. They carry it out and get it done.”
The new crew recently completed their annual tank qualification. The time on the range has given the crew an opportunity to work out the kinks in their teamwork.
“To be honest, the only training we’ve had before this was between me and the gunner,” Alloway said. “That got us flowing, a good TC-gunner combination. (Feb. 12) was the very first time all four of us were in the tank together on the range.”
Each movement the tankers make needs to be fast and in rhythm. Moving too slow or not in sync with the rest of the crew could mean the difference between life and death in a combat situation. As the White 3 crew develops their skills, personal improvement is a major part in the crew’s success.
“Every time you learn something new you know you’re going to mess up,” Hernandez said. “When I got put in as a gunner, I knew what was to be expected. It was nerve wracking but little by little I started learning from everybody else by their inputs and mistakes.”
White 3’s crew started a team flow. There are quarrels among them like the average crew, but in their developing team, they look to fix the kinks early on.
“We all get mad and yell at each other when things go wrong, but we all know it’s in the heat of the moment,” Hernandez said. “We know what we are capable of inside a tank. If we have a fault, we work on it and try to perfect it. In our off-time, we maintain the tank and we get together as a crew and see what happened, this is what needs to happen and we talk about the next day.”
Alloway and his crew continue to seek improvement. In doing so, they grow closer as a unit.
“We are far from perfect,” Alloway said. “We got to keep the flow going. We have a good idea of how we are doing right now.”