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Tanks trade treads for security role

5 Jun 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

It's almost like watching ducks out of water.  That is, of course, if ducks carried enough firepower to decimate nearly everything they saw.

Marine tankers from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion traded in their treaded 70-ton M-1A1 behemoths for something a little lighter - humvees.  For the last three weeks, they've taken up the role as the security force for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines.

"There wasn't a need for tanks anymore after Fallujah," explained Staff Sgt. Manuel Herrera, a 32-year-old tank commander from Tampa, Fla.   "EOD had a hard time responding to calls because they had to find a security detail and a bomb to worry about.  They offered the job and we accepted."

The tankers can gear up, mount their vehicles, load up on weapons and escort the EOD Marines to the roadside bomb in a matter of minutes.  That's the difference that could mean survival when improvised explosive devices are sighted.

Staff Sgt. Steven Santana, the platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, said having the tankers on hand makes it easier for EOD Marines to concentrate on the task at hand.  They're not tied up with the logistics of finding a security element and know the Marines with whom they will work.

"We make sure we provide the security that will protect the EOD guys, so they can solely focus on completing their mission," said Santana, a 36-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y.

"We're doing the right thing," said Lance Cpl. Raymond Padilla, a 20-year-old from Houston. "They asked 1st Tanks to provide security and we're following through."

Although the Marines are accustomed to maneuver the land with their tanks, they now find themselves on the ground brushing up on their infantry skills. 

Being observant is key when responding to a call, said 1st Lt. Troy M. Saylor, 1st Platoon's Commander.

"We don't want to be in the effective casualty radius, but close enough to search for anything out of the ordinary before EOD goes to work," said Saylor, a 30-year-old from Kearney, Neb.

While the company's support to EOD was slated to be a temporary one, Santana is sure their commitment will last.

"We've worked well with each other so far, so they requested us on a permanent basis now," Santana said.