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.


The Crow said...

Tell us about those "interesting rides," please. I can only imagine what that must have been like. (RPG - rocket propelled grenade?)

Thank you for your kind words, and good wishes.


Barrett Bonden said...

I worry about turning the noun tank into a verb, given that "to tank" means something quite alien to those who operate tanks and has been the subject of wide-ranging discussion in The Guardian, the newspaper I read. Tanks fascinate me but I've always imagined one of the major hazards is when the tenderer parts of its human residents are brought up sharply against the bumps and projections of the vehicle's interior. The ideal garment would seem to be that worn by the Michelin Man. But now here's another disadvantage: a tank's ineluctable obedience to the second law of thermodynamics. Touch the inner wall (I'm sure there's a more technie word) and one might envisage one's body heat taking on the most direct line to Saturn.

Tanks are yet another example of the "form follows function" aesthetic. The surface angles incorporated in the turret as a means of deflecting alien projectiles result in a shape which has its own austere beauty. The tank vs. refrigerator argument must inevitably lead to the lunatic conclusion that it would do more harm to the enemy if RCA Whirlpools were hurled at them and raise suspicions about another branch of what Eisenhower referred to as the military-industrial complex.

I imagine that one of the most significant features about going to war in a tank is the cameraderie it engenders with the tank contributing to this sensation by occupying a role that sits subtly between that of a machine and, to copy you, a carbon biped. Great to hear from you again; best holiday wishes to you and Mrs RR.

Relucent Reader said...

Crow: yes, rocket propelled grenade. Tankers in Vietnam carried chainlink fence, rolled up on their back deck. They would put it around the tank at night: perhaps it would be enough to set off the charge before it hit the tank.There will be a part 2,mebbe 3; depending on how the words flow. I have not quite gotten it out of my system....
BB:Yes! My forehead is still peppered with scars from dinging it on sights, brackets, and ammo racks. A helmet was worn for movement; during maintenance in the motor pool the service cap sufficed.
And the cameraderie IS great, sir.A crew lives or dies by how well the 4 of them mesh and work together. I still am in communication with buddies I made 25 years ago. I have a samizdat sheet of tanker jokes some of which touch on this issue ( How many friends come to a tanker's barbecue? 3, harharhar) somewhere about, I will dig it up and post it. Some days I really miss it; then I come to my senses...and yes, looking back, you are right in looking askance at 'tanking'.. I was trying to echo 'tenting tonight', a Civil War song, but never mind. Hope all is well and warm where y'all are.

Barrett Bonden said...

Straight-driven woodscrews. Racondite allusions. Continuous power. Unbroken broadband. Cat-poo-less borders. Boggle-free bearnaise. Self-cleaning sables. Myth-riddled churches. Fly silent mornings. Ale from the cask and brewing adjacent. Wall-to-wall Cosi. Unending Brendel. Clarified Proust. An index for Yoolie. Masterpiece photos.Perfume from mangroves. Machine shining steel. A high-revving two-stroke. Murdoch-free broadcasts. Snowy crunch footprints. Fat taste from Meursault. Snow-covered Prague... well, you get the idea. I pray you are supported by technology in 2010

The Crow said...

Happy New Year, Steve and Linda.