Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tankin' tonight !

O yeah.
O yeah.,
originally uploaded by scp2695.
We have snow on the ground;a decent amount, too. The right snow (with an icy crust on top) will reflect the moon's light, illuminating the woods ; that reminds me of the rough beauty of flares against snow, and that reminds me of tanks.

I joined the Reserves for a whole 'nother blog entry's reasons. I trained on M-60A1s at Fort Knox; when I got to my unit, Troop D, 5th Armored Cavalry at Fort Devens, they had 'straight' M-60's, the first version of the M-60. Later we were issued the last version of the '60, the M60A3. A sweet shooting and scooting tank. It was our first 'digital' tank,with an excellent main gun fire control system. After the hand cranked range finders of earlier models, just pushing the button to get the range with the laser range finder was swell. Excellent tight turret stabilization helped with firing on the move, a big plus.

We had two training cycles: gunnery , followed by a maneuver year. Gunnery cycles were spent on the tank range (think a 2 mile wide by 5 mile deep gravel pit); maneuver training was spent in the boonies.That was when the black berets came out. See, other NATO tankers have worn black berets since before there was a NATO, so some of our older tankers thought American tankers should do so. In the New England spring and summer, maneuvers were great, knocking down trees and conducting tank and wingman exercises. Winter training was more rigorous. No bumping trees, the tc hated it when the snow fell on him..... We had excellent cold weather gear , but 58 tons of steel can hold a lot of cold. The tanks had heaters, which worked most of the time. After a night road march, crews would sleep on the back deck of their tank, above the warm diesel engine. An extreme violation of doctrine (if an rpg hits a track one is sleeping on, all bets are off), but in that flip dark chill winter night it felt great. Nothing illustrates the expression 'hog on ice' better than a tank on the road in winter. I never lost control while driving one, but had a couple interesting rides. A tank commander told me the tanks have less ground pressure per square inch than a refrigerator, even though they still had a tendency to pack snow to ice.

There are other aspects of tanking I have not jabbered about; that will have to be a future post. I would like to wish all 7 of my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, with special greetings for Barret Bonden and The Crow, two people who inspire, entertain, and inform me. Thank you.