Tuesday, November 22, 2016
In the 80s, Army Reserve tank units fired twice a year. We had a full tank gunnery at Annual Training and a three-day weekend tank gunnery at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., in the fall.
We fired both day and night on these ranges. In 1983, I was the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge) of the range for night fire. At dusk on that October evening, I was in the tower above the range. Below the tower, our 17 tanks were lined up fender to fender waiting to test fire their machine guns before night fire. The crews got to check their guns in the fading light before firing at night with searchlights, both white light and infrared.
Each of the 17 tanks had 50 rounds for the M-85, .50-caliber machine gun and 50 rounds for the M240 coaxial "coax" machine gun next to the main gun.
As the light faded I gave the command from the tower to lock and load one 50-round belt of ammo for each gun. The targets were between 500 and 1200 meters away, clusters of olive-drab panels on stakes driven into the muddy ground.
I checked the range, picked up the loudspeaker microphone and said, "Ready on the right. Ready on the left. The range is ready. You may fire when ready." As I said the last words, a white-tailed doe jumped out of the woods and hopped into the middle of the 500-meter targets.
It seemed that all of the 340 tracers in 1,700 rounds of ammo converged on the spot where the white-tailed deer hopped into the middle of the targets.
I called "Cease Fire" less than a minute later, but there was no need. Each of the machine guns on an M60A1 tank can fire 50 rounds in 5 seconds. Everyone had expended ammo. The deer disappeared and I was Sergeant Bambi Killer for the rest of my time in 68th Armor. In the Army, nicknames can happen as fast as machine gun fire.