CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Marines of Company A, 2nd Tank Battalion are supporting the grunts of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment by maintaining a constant presence with their M1-A1 Main Battle Tanks along the main highways in the battalion’s new area of operations.
“We’re operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael J. Kadlub, a tank commander for 2nd Platoon. “There’s always somebody out there.”
The tanks followed Darkhorse to Habbaniyah when the battalion moved west from Fallujah at the end of May.
The transition to the new battle space was eased by the company’s previous work with the Darkhorse battalion south of Fallujah earlier in the deployment, Kadlub said.
“Fortunately, right before we came here, our platoon worked with India 3/5 for a month at another location,” said the 37-year-old from Atlanta. “We had a good working relationship with them, and it’s carried over here. It’s been nothing but good results.”
Tanks also support the Iraqi Army forces who share battle space with Marines in the area.
“We’re responsible for route security,” said Capt. Charles T. Montgomery, 2nd Platoon commander. “The Iraqi Army owns territory adjacent to us, so we work with them periodically on request.”
“If they need us they’ll call us, and we’ll assist them,” Kadlub added.
He said he’s seen some progress since moving to the more volatile area of operations closer to Ramadi.
“After the move here, the activity by the insurgents was definitely substantially increased from what we saw since we were in country,” Kadlub said. “It’s slowed down a little bit, but has definitely not gone away.”
The move brought changes in camp scenery, as the Marines now live in barracks built by the British army earlier this century.
“It’s a lot changed from where we’ve been,” said Cpl. Brian C. Gilliam, a tank gunner. “The living conditions are down a little bit, but the working conditions are boosted up.”
Camp Habbaniyah’s large hangar keeps the sunlight off the tanks, which he said helps while the Marines perform constant maintenance in the desert heat. The hangar is also located relatively close to their barracks.
“It’s not that far compared to Fallujah, where we had to get on a bus to get to work,” said Gilliam, 26, from Cumberland, Ky.
Montgomery, a 33-year-old from Charlotte, Ky., added that the close proximity between work and living quarters is good for maximizing operations, since the tanks require constant upkeep.
“Just like every rifleman has to zero in his rifle, we have to zero the tank gun,” Kadlub explained. “If you do everything the way you’re supposed to, it’s as easy as playing a video game.”
In two separate engagements, tanks have helped Marines of I Company stop insurgent attacks, he added.
Gilliam is on his first deployment to Iraq. He has the best view in the tank, behind the controls of the 120 mm main gun.
“I’m the one aiming in, scanning, doing all that,” he said. “When I pull the trigger, the target ceases to exist,” Gilliam said.
And for the grunts who patrol the roads and man the observation posts in Habbaniyah, 70 tons of metal rolling down the street is always a welcome sight.
“Their presence helps,” said Lance Cpl. David Conklin, a machine gunner with Combat Trains Platoon, Headquarters and Support Company. “When the insurgents see the tanks, they don’t really want to come out and attack.”
The 23-year-old from Temple, Texas, added that the tanks also provide peace of mind against improvised explosive device attacks, as the tanks’ armor can withstand just about anything buried on the road.