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4th Tanks practice live fire ranges and amphibious operations

US Marine Corps News

By Cpl. Codey Underwood | U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve | July 28, 2014

CAMP PENDLETON, California -- Digging into the dusty path, the enormous tank uses its tracked wheels to climb onto a range leading a convoy of assault vehicles. Locked, loaded and ready to fire, the 120 millimeter main gun rotates, aims and waits for the target to appear. Cradled deep in the belly of the M1 Abrams Tank, the gunner peeks through the sights focused on the tree line. As the gas powered turbine engine roars over the last hill, the target appears through the scope. The gunner pulls the trigger, sending 1,001 large pellets whistling through the air, tearing through everything in its path.

Marines with 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, conducted live-fire tank and infantry integration as well as amphibious exercises as a part of the battalion's annual training here, July 12 through 25, 2014.

The exercise, which lasted two weeks, gave the tank crewmen a chance to operate the M1 Abrams tank during simulated ship-to-shore movements and conduct live-fire training with active-duty infantry Marines.

"Ship-to-shore movement of tanks can be accomplished in a number of ways with Navy platforms, army platforms or maritime prepositioning forces to support a whole range of military operations from counter insurgency to major theater combat," said Lt. Col. John Valencia, the Commanding Officer of 4th Tank Battalion. "An opportunity to conduct annual training for a large portion of our battalion is something that is critical to accomplish our training goals."

During the ship-to-shore movements, the tanks were loaded on Navy Landing Craft, Air Cushions and Navy Landing Craft Utilities that simulated the tank being offloaded from a naval ship. The battalion loaded the tanks while on shore then moved out to the sea.

The exhaust on the tank is positioned low and because of this, the crew has to outfit the M1 Abram tanks with deep-water-fording kits. This directs the exhaust upward and out of the water, giving the tank the capability of being submerged in up to seven feet of water.

"This training is really helpful to the Marines because most of the drivers have never gone through water that deep," said Cpl. Joe Fryman, a tank crewman with Company E, 4th Tank Battalion. "The water comes over the drivers hatch, making it pretty scary for the Marine sitting inside."

When conducting amphibious operations, getting to the objective is only a portion of the mission. The Marines with 4th Tank Battalion also utilized live-fire training to prepare them for what would come after the insertion.

During the live-fire training the tanks used canister rounds, a large shell packing 1,001 pellets in each round fired. The Canister Round is almost completely made of cardboard material, causing the outer casing to dissipate when fired, leaving the small end of the round. When working quickly, the loader can prepare another round every seven seconds safely. Once loaded, the 120 millimeter gun sends an electrical charge surging into the round, ensuring that the round will not fire because of an accidental bump.

The canister round, mixed with the fire power of the individual Marine rifleman allows the battalion to cover a wide spectrum of contingencies.

"Throughout this training we have conducted tank and infantry integration training learning how to bound, stay on line and make everything run smooth," said Lance Cpl. Ryan Charles, a tank crewman with 4th Tank Battalion. "We train with the active-duty Marines because as Reservists, you never really know when you will have to go and be with an active-duty unit. We wanted to get the training so we are prepared ahead of time."

Training with the active-duty Marines gives the Reservist a chance to learn and understand how they work.

"First and foremost, it is important that the Reserve Marines spend these two weeks in the field because even though we train every month, it really takes a prolonged period of time out in the field to meet higher-level training objectives," said Valencia. "When we do that, we want to train with the active-duty component because that's how we are going to fight. We can learn best practices from our active-duty Marines and presumably, we can share our tactics, techniques and procedures with them as well."

Combining the active-duty and reserve Marine units into one training exercise enables the two forces to coincide with one another during later operations. The Marine Corps' total force integration ensures that when a Reserve unit is deployed they will be able to integrate and fight alongside the active-duty counterparts.

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