Armor ScoresBy Pfc. William Addison, 444th MPAD
As the fog continued to roll in, the tension increased. Months of preparation were being threatened. Yet, as the night wore on, visibility remained good, despite the fog.
Suddenly with a piercing flash, a 105 mm gun hammered a red tracer round downrange. Immediately, three more guns barked. The night sky was filled with red and white flashes while the ground shook.
When the firing had finished, the tankers of C Troop of the 5-117th Cavalry had become the first New Jersey guardsmen to qualify on the Tank Table 12 movement at Fort Drums range 23 during annual training in June.
"Tank Table 12 is unique because it is a platoon movement, which involves four tanks firing and moving downrange together," observed Lt. Col. Stephen Hines, 5-117th Cavalry Commander.
Tank Table 12 is a two-part platoon maneuver. The first part of the table is done during the day, with stationary defensive fire and then moving down range on the offensive. The second part of the table is night fire. Night fire provides a greater challenge because each tank must maintain communication, as well as remain in their own lanes of fire.
"The challenge came down from Maj. Gen. George T. Garrett (42nd Infantry Division commander)," stated 5-117th Command Sgt. Maj. David Kenna. Up until now, the only required qualification table was Tank Table 8 noted Kenna. However Maj. Gen. Garrett had set a new standard, requiring at least one tank platoon from New Jersey to qualify on maneuver.
The challenge was not easy to meet however. "We had to go far and beyond our regular training schedule," noted Master Sgt. Tim Marvian. The tank troops worked every Wednesday night, as well as two weekends a month for a year to prepare for the challenge.
"We have really become like a family," observed 1st Sgt. Edward Santiago on how the training schedule had affected the unit. "It has been a real strain on their families, their jobs, and just their lives in general, but when we come together, and enter into this event with confidence, it was all worth it." said 1st Sgt. Santiago.
"The training schedule was frustrating, but when you realize what it all leads up to in the end, this is good stuff, stated Spc. John Preston, a driver for the tank squad. Preston is the youngest member of C Troop, and is attending Rutgers University.
The tankers completed the event with 12 out of 17 possible hits. "I cannot think of the words to describe how the men must feel right now," said 1st Sgt. Santiago. "These guys have worked so hard, I am so proud of them," stated Sgt. 1st Class Wayne May, C Troop platoon sergeant.
"The men of C Troop were so efficient in everything they had done up to this point, I never had a doubt that they would not only qualify, but exceed the mark," observed 1st Lt. Grant Marks, commander of C Troop. Marks had only been commanding the Troop for the second half of its training, taking over from Capt. Richard Kinkler, who started the train-up for Tank Table 12. "We just did what the regular army does, and we pulled it out first time," said Spc. Preston, "It gives me a lot of pride in this unit and the squad."
"This was a total effort - the entire unit worked as a team to achieve the goal. The crews out on the fuel trains, the commo (communications) guys, and the guys at the ammo points as well, not to mention the mechanics who fixed whatever we had a problem with right away, none of this would have happened with out their hard work," said Sgt. 1st Class May as he talked about the support behind the firing line. "Finally, a whole year," added Santiago, after the scores were tallied up, validating the12 months of strenuous training.
"Hooah, good tanking," finished Spc. Preston, as he walked toward one of the M-1 Abrams tanks that C Company of the 5-117th Cavalry used to meet the General's challenge and NJARNG history.