By Pfc. Jared S. Eastman, 1st HBCT Public AffairsJune 3, 2009
FORT STEWART, Ga. - The armor is caked with mud and the tracks are dirty, but the tank's guns remain spotless, prepared for battle at a second's notice. After three weeks off and on in the field, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat team, 3rd Infantry Division, completed their Tank Table VIII, or their individual tank qualifications. Soldiers stand in groups next to their tanks, either gloating to another crew about their score or listening to their tank commander give time-honored and experienced advice for the next challenge the crew may face.
The crew of Charlie 24, or "Cupcake," is in a good mood, although four points away from making top tank like they did last gunnery, the crew is still considered a distinguished tank.
"We just finished Tank Table VIII and it's been great," said Pvt. Steven Long, a loader for Cupcake. "This is our crew's second gunnery. (After) the last gunnery, we were top tank, and this gunnery we were four points away. We did real good out here."
Tank Table VIII is more than just the Super Bowl of tank gunnery for individual tank crews, it is also vital to keeping the tank crews at the top of their game.
"Today we are finishing our qualification table and hoping to get everything cleaned up pretty soon," said Sgt. John Asher, a gunner for Cupcake. "Qualification is important because it's a skill you have to learn just like anything else. If you don't use it, it's something you can lose very quickly."
The crew had to go through a lot of preparation in order to be ready for the qualification. Not only did they have to go through Tank Tables IV, V, VI and VII but also a lot of training in garrison. Along with crew skills tasks and fire commands, the gunner and tank commander also have to train in a simulator before coming out for qualification.
"I came in the Marine Corps first, and I thought it would be a cool job to be a tanker, so when I got out of the Marine Corps and into the Army, I signed up to be a tanker," said Sgt. Asher. "We had a lot of fun out here; my crew is awesome."
Ground guides led the tanks out of the Multi-Purpose Range Complex motor pool and onto the tank trails, where they refueled before heading back to 2/7 Inf.'s motor pool.
Although the tank Super Bowl is over, 2/7 Inf. still has more tank tables to go through to ready their tankers for deployment, including tank squad movement and firing.