Local Marines host tank gunnery competition at Knox range

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The sound of tanks firing boomed across Wilcox Range at Fort Knox as U.S. Marine Corps tank crews competed to be named the top tank crew in the corps.

Tiger Competition, a U.S. Marine Corps annual tank gunnery event, concluded Aug. 28 with a live fire and awards ceremony.

Each tank battalion in the Marines — 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division; 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division; 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve — was represented by a tank crew in the competition. There are 174 tank crews in the Corps. The crews battled at the battalion level during their normal gunnery qualifications to determine which would compete in Tiger Competition.

Active duty battalions hold gunnery qualifications twice a year, while the Reserve crews participate in a gunnery qualification once a year, said Capt. Tyler Garrett, inspector-instructor, Echo Company, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve, based at Fort Knox.

Echo Company, 4th Tank Battalion hosted this year’s competition.

“Fort Knox is a fantastic range facility,” Garrett said. “We are fortunate to be stationed here. Some of our sister units don’t have the range facilities we have here.

“This really challenges the Marines. As you can see from the terrain out on this range, there’s vegetation, there’s trees, there’s items that block the different targetry, so it makes it challenging for them to acquire those targets.”

The live fire was not the only component of the competition. Garrett said a physical fitness test was conducted and the Marines were tested on their ability to identify targets.

With a pair of M1A1 tanks and Wilcox Range as a backdrop, the crews were awarded for their accomplishments.

The Marines of the second- and third-place crews, 1st Tank Battalion and 4th Tank Battalion, respectively, were given U.S. Marine Corps certificates of commendation and third-place medals.

The first-place crew members from 2nd Tank Battalion were awarded Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and first-place medals. The crew also was presented with the McCard Cup, named for Gunnery Sgt. Robert McCard.

A Marine tanker, McCard was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle of Saipan, Marianas Islands in 1944, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command website.

Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations at the U.S. Marine Corps, addressed those in attendance after presenting the first-place crew their medals, extending congratulations to all crews, but especially 2nd Tank Battalion.

“Three times today, they demonstrated they were the best of the best,” Beaudreault said. “They joined the best service, demonstrated they were the best within their battalion, and we got one crew that is the best in the Marine Corps.”

He also spoke about the role of tanks in the “ability to be lethal.”

“You don’t wave from tanks...,” he said. “There’s one reason we employ these things on distant shores and that’s to go as lethal as humanly possible: to make it the absolute worst day that the enemy has ever seen.”

Beaudreault expanded on the use of the tanks in battle as he addressed the Marines, stating tanks have been used in the counterterrorism fight.

“But there’s bigger threats that loom,” he said. “We can say that Russia and China are two of five major challenges that we face, both of whom are going to require every bit of skill you demonstrated here today and well into the future.”

“We’ve got a challenge that could be next week, could be a decade from now,” Beaudreault added. “Let’s hope it never comes. Let’s hope that the fact that you’re out here demonstrating this kind of capability is enough to deter a state adversary to never want to take on the United States Marine Corps or the U.S. [Department of Defense].

“And if they do, we see what the outcome will be.”