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A Fitting Monument
by Army Staff Sgt. David Bruce - December 18, 2011

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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
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.

Camp 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.

Getting the 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.

According to 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.”

Additional systems 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 Hildebrand.

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 the job.

“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 combat multiplier.”

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
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2011

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