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Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force

Integrated Task Force Tank Platoon begins MCOTEA assessment

By | | March 20, 2015

“Green! He’s alive,” shouted the data collector as he glanced over the light on the dummy’s head and lowered it back onto the ground. The Marines were successful in evacuating him from an M1A1 Abrams tank without damage.

“I need to check this heart rate monitor after this is done,” a voice among the Marines said, breathing heavily.

Marines with Tank Platoon, Company B, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, conducted a Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity assessment at Range 500, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, March 7, 2015.

Marines were faced with a slew of tasks that would challenge their ability to work together as a crew. First came breaking and repairing the track of their tanks.

“Today we started off with breaking track, which took a good (while),” said Sgt. Michelle A. Svec, driver, Tank Plt., Co. B, GCEITF. “We all worked together to ensure it was safe.”

Next, crews were required to tend to the weapon systems of their tanks, mounting and loading both the 120 mm main gun and .50-caliber machine gun. Physical strength was put to the test afterward as Marines manually traversed the entire top portion of their tanks via a control console.

Marines were equipped with heart rate monitors as they carried out their physically demanding tasks. MCOTEA data collectors supervised each event.

Crew and casualty evacuation was the next endeavor. Marines were given an emergency evacuation command and required to quickly abandon their tanks and advance, with weapons in hand, 100 meters away.

But if evacuation was necessary and not every Marine was in the condition to move on their own, crews had to figure out a way to get their casualty out.

“We evacuated our famous dummy, Bob, from the gunner’s hole and to a casualty evacuation point,” Svec said.

“Bob” wore a helmet and flak jacket to match the load out of the standard tank crewman, making his weight approximately 200 pounds. He also had a head sensor that reacted to any would-be bumps and drops of his body. If the sensor displayed a green light, “Bob” would be on his way to recovery.

Finally, crews were presented with the task of having to recover a tank via tow.

Marines positioned the recovering tank in front of the downed one, and retrieved the 70-pound tow bar. While some Marines attached the tow bar, others directed the recovering tank to position itself just right so that the tow bar was securely latched on.

“Being a tank crewman, every task that we do, we do as a crew,” Svec said. “Every one of us plays a role, and we all have to do our part to get the job done.”

Crews re-grouped the following day for the live-fire portion of their assessment.

“(The range) went pretty good even with a brand new crew every third day,” said Sgt. Felipe Vasquez, gunner, Tank Plt., Co. B, GCEITF.

Crews were randomized for the assessment to provide as many variables as possible for data collectors to record. Tank drivers, loaders and gunners worked together to assault targets down range using the 120 mm main gun and .50-caliber machine gun. Past the firing line, tanks staged themselves at a set berm. Once targets were active, they advanced up the berm to fire, then retreated to their starting defensive position.

“I think that this is the best tank range the Marine Corps has,” Vasquez said. “There’s a lot of open area and room for targets. It’s a great training area.”

The platoon will complete further assessment cycles throughout the duration of their stay in Twentynine Palms.

“Some things come as second-nature, but there has also been challenging parts in this assessment,” Vasquez said. “For everyone, it is a learning experience. You never stop learning about your job.”

From October 2014 to July 2015, the GCEITF will conduct individual and collective level skills training in designated ground combat arms occupational specialties in order to facilitate the standards-based assessment of the physical performance of Marines in a simulated operating environment performing specific ground combat arms tasks.