Tank Marines work hard, stay on track
Friday, January 09, 2009; Posted: 08:17 PM

Jan 09, 2009 (DEFENSE DEPARTMENT DOCUMENTS AND PUBLICATIONS/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- APHJF | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating -- UBAYDI, Iraq -- Heaving heavy tanks over miles of
miles of rough terrain means that the tankers and tank mechanics in western al-Anbar province, Iraq, have their work cut out for them when it comes to keeping their vehicles running.

The Marines of 3rd Platoon, Alpha Co., 2nd Tank Battalion have been operating out of Combat Outpost Ubaydi, supporting combined anti-armor teams from Weapons Co., Task Force 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 as they patrol near the Syrian border.

"Mainly we do overwatch and security for the infantry as they go out to the border forts. A lot of times we support each other, but now since there is no armor threat, we're trying to find different ways to employ tanks while we're out here," said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey T. Peeler, 30, a platoon sergeant with 3rd Plt. from Phoenix, Arizona. "We provide that security for them to make sure they're safe while they do their job."

To make sure everything is running right, the Marines of Alpha Co., 2nd Tank Battalion work around the clock, inspecting every piece of track and greasing every lube point whenever they have the chance.

"The primary focus is to keep these tanks up. That way they can go out and operate, make sure they get the job done," said Sgt. John L. Green, 21, maintenance chief with 3rd Plt. from Denver, Colo. "Every day there's something going on with these tanks. My guys are always working weird hours; the tanks go down at random times."

Every morning the Marines head out to their M-1 Abrams main battle tanks to begin daily maintenance: checking fluids, looking for loose bolts and cleaning off censors. Mechanics and tankers work together to ensure everything is running smoothly inside and outside the tank.

"We work on the tanks every day. Every hour of operation is about eight hours worth of maintenance, so daily they're out here running the engines, hitting all the grease points, lubing up every hole point, and making sure our weapons are good to go," said Peeler.

While on missions the tankers themselves must be prepared for anything. Anything from hydraulic systems and hub seals to tracks and transmissions can break at any time.

"One tank threw track and we had to break it and put it back on," said Lance Cpl. Andy A. Goldsmith, 21, a gunner with 2nd Tank Bn. from Fort Myers, Fla.

The missions don't end when the tankers return to base either. The tank crew must perform after-operations maintenance when they return from a mission so they are ready for the next day.

"(After-operations maintenance) consists of walking the track and making sure none of the track is lose or coming apart and then checking all the suspensions components, drive components, final drive components, checking for leaks, stuff like that," said Sgt. Ryan S. Wilson, 23, a tank commander with 3rd Plt. from Round Rock, Texas.

The dry, dusty terrain is a far cry from what many of these Camp Lejeune-based Marines are used to. This deployment has been a learning experience for many of the young Marines.

"The guys that haven't been out here before aren't used to troubleshooting different problems with the suspension because that stuff doesn't go down in Camp Lejeune," said Green. "It's a more rocky climate [in Iraq]; the heat changes the performance of the hydraulics and you just have to learn to adapt. They're just trying to get used to different conditions, so there is always something new that they're learning."