The hot California sun beamed, drawing beads of sweat, but the U.S. Marines, Vietnam veterans and members of the local community were heedless. Hands holding phones, binoculars and video cameras hovered as they anxiously waited for another ground shaking explosion.
A murmur erupted from the sweat-slicked crowd perched on top of the Range 409A observation point as 4th Tank Battalion’s M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fired another dead-center hit during TIGERCOMP August 29 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
TIGERCOMP makes the companies want to dig a little deeper to be the top shooters. Sgt. Johnathan Wright, the tank commander of 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve
According to Lt. Col. Matthew Zummo, the commanding officer of 1st Tank Battalion, TIGERCOMP has been the Marine Corps tank gunnery competition since 1996. The three Marine Tank Battalions compete to determine the Corps’ most lethal tank crew. Following a six-year break from 2003-2009, the competition was reignited in 2010.
“First Tanks is hosting this year’s competition,” said Zummo. “We selected Range 409A as the venue to enable a better spectator experience compared to the usual Range 500 at 29 Palms. The winning crew will have the opportunity to compete in the Sullivan Cup, which is the Army’s total force tank gunnery competition.”
Hand-selected Marines from across the Corps, active duty and reserve, traveled to Camp Pendleton to compete in the tank gunnery competition. TIGERCOMP consisted of a physical training competition, call for fire and vehicle identification.
“TIGERCOMP makes the companies want to dig a little deeper to be the top shooters,” said Sgt. Johnathan Wright, the tank commander of 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.
Throughout four days before the competition, the Marines executed a total of 10 engagements prepping the teams for their final grading portion.
On the first day, the Marines woke up before the sun to compete in a physical training competition. The physical training test started with the longest two minutes imaginable. The Marines had two minutes to complete as many clean-and-presses with a 50 pound heat round.
Immediately after, the Marines were handed pieces of tank track. Once they held the chunks of track, the Marines began the 500-meter track shuffle.
“The PT was … strenuous,” said Wright, rubbing the back of his neck. “Then we did a tow cable drag, you do a bear crawl with the tow cable, stand up and run back; but, the most difficult part was the road wheel drag.”
The Marines were given tires from the tanks, known as road wheels, and told to keep two hands on it at all times. To finish the PT test, the huffing participants competed in a one-mile boots and utes run. In the afternoon, the Marines began their shooting workup program.
On the second day, the teams picked two or three of their best Marines to compete in a call for fire. A call for fire is a commonly used request providing succinct messages that determine the best methods of attack.
On the third day, the Marines began their armored vehicle identification test. The test included American and Russian modes of transportation, helicopters and thermal images. The Marines glanced at the image for 10 seconds, and then hastily scribbled. On the fourth day, the Marines finished their workup program.
On the fifth day, veterans and members of the local community gathered alongside Marines to watch the tanks compete and revel in the tanks’ lethal accuracy.
In the end, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, collected the enormous TIGERCOMP trophy, the pride and joy of the tank community.
Stay tuned to watch the Marines compete against the soldiers in the Sullivan Cup, the Army’s precision gunnery competition. The next competition that will rigorously test U.S. soldiers, U.S. Marines and international partners is set for 2020 at Fort Benning, Georgia. For more information go to https://www.benning.army.mil/armor/sullivan/