With the aid of a shop lift, 1st Sgt. Mike Dunn, of Nashville, Ind., a mechanic at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center's Unit Training Equipment Site, removes the primary gunner's sight on an M1 Abrams tank, Nov. 1,
2011. The tank is being decommissioned for addition to the Camp Atterbury Veterans Memorial. Photo by
Army Staff Sgt. David Bruce
EDINBURGH, Ind. (12/13/2011) — They sit mute on concrete slabs.
Once, they had voices of their own; the thunderous roar of cannons,
the shriek of missiles or the rumble of diesel engines. Soldiers
once staked their lives and a nation, its freedom and defense of
allies on them. Some proved themselves in conflict; others in the
chess game of the Cold War. Like soldiers, they retire when their
services are longer needed, or rendered obsolete. Douglas MacArthur
said that old soldiers never die, they just fade away. The soldiers
that used these pieces of equipment may have faded, but the tanks,
armored personnel carriers and other relics remain on display as
tribute to soldiers of past generations and eras.
Atterbury has taken possession of an M1 Abrams main battle tank that
is to be decommissioned and placed in the static display that is
part of the Camp Atterbury Veterans Memorial.
tank here was a long process, said Maj. Everett Baker, the artifacts
officer for the Camp Atterbury Museum.
“It was an ongoing
process for about five to seven years which I inherited from my
predecessor,” said Baker.
The tank was stored at Anniston
Army Depot in northern Alabama before coming to Camp Atterbury.
According to markings on the tank, it last saw service with A
Company, 1st Battalion, 172nd Armor Regiment.
Baker, the motivation for having this piece of armor at the Camp
Atterbury Veterans Memorial was to honor those troops whom served
during the time the M1 was actively used.
“Indiana had troops
involved with Desert Storm and the M1 is a vehicle from that era,”
said Baker. “The M1 tank had a major effect on that time period.”
The M1 entered service in 1980 to replace the aging M60
series main battle tank, which military planners felt was
inferior to the new family of tanks fielded by the Soviet
Union, said Capt. Jay Hildebrand, an armor officer with the
Indiana Army National Guard.
“It had an improved
computer system and optics for fire control, it could shoot
and move, it was faster and had a better suspension than the
previous M60 family of tanks,” said Hildebrand. “In the case
of the M1, it had a 105mm main cannon and crewed by a
driver, loader, gunner and tank commander. The history of
the first Gulf War was a case in point that the M1 was a
superior piece of armor.”
The M1 series tank's
performance demonstrated the United States' military
technological capability, said Baker, who is a veteran of
Desert Storm and witnessed the aftermath of the tank battles
in that conflict.
“It was amazing to see our
capabilities in a war-time situation,” said Baker. “It
backed up the term super-power. [The M1 series] made victory
decisive in a short amount of time. Seeing the aftereffects
of battles between the M1 and T72 [Soviet tank] used by the
Iraqis, it was like target practice. It was frightening.”
Prior to being put on display the tank will be
demilitarized, that is to say, render this once powerful
instrument of war inert at the Camp Atterbury Unit Training
Equipment Site maintenance facility.
“We have to
remove the control panels, radio mounts, and primary gunner
sights and ensure that the tank cannot be put back into
service,” said Staff Sgt. Matt Reuter, mechanic at the Camp
Atterbury UTES facility. “You have to be certified by the
Army's Tank and Automotive Armaments Command to be able to
de-militarize something like this. There is a standard
operating procedure for the process, which could take as
little as two weeks to finish.”
that get removed are the engine, fire suppression system and
firing mechanism for the main gun, said Reuter. Once the
tank is put in place at the memorial site, the turret will
be locked into position and the hatches welded closed. The
final preparations for the display also include a new paint
job in desert camouflage pattern.
The question has
been raised whether tanks still have a prominent role in
warfare that heavy armor is obsolete, considering only two
full loaded M1 series tanks can be loaded on a C-5 Galaxy,
the largest cargo aircraft in the U.S. Air Force. While it
is unknown what future generations of tanks will look like,
its combat effectiveness is still relevant, said Hildebrand.
“The first forces in Baghdad were armor and mechanized
infantry. They were also used by the Marines during Falluja
and NATO countries have sent a few to Afghanistan,” said
While there are limited applications for
main battle tanks in a counter insurgency, they are an
important asset when dealing with other national militaries,
said Baker. Like any tool, it has to be the right tool for
“Armor still has a role to play in full
spectrum operations,” said Baker. “Certain tactical
situations can prohibit its use, but it hasn't lost its
And so, Tank, Combat M1, serial
number 1599, your burdens are over.
More photos available below
By Army Staff Sgt. David Bruce
Camp Atterbury Public Affairs
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