American Tank Commander

I have some very interesting stories to tell of my many experiences in the military, but more than story-telling, I will try to show how things play out against military regulations and law; furthermore, I will emphasize what I learned about leadership…including my time as a small-group leader. I believe that you will find some of those perspectives within this example.

My first overseas duty assignment (in 1985) sent me to the then West Germany, the town of Wildflecken, and my camp, known as Wildflecken Training Area. My Company First Sergeant was a very jaded and sadistic fellow…definitely not someone you wanted to piss off. He passed out Bars to Reenlistment and Administrative Flags of Favorable Action like they were candy; he also used his punishment authority (a maximum of 14 days extra-duty, and 14 days of restriction to the company area) without any hesitation. I was lucky enough to squeak by without any serious “corrective training” or punishment action from him; but, one day, this particular Staff Sergeant Tank Commander…he was not so lucky.

My Tank Company was participating in live-fire gunnery, and at the time we had M60A3 tanks. On non-range days we parked our vehicles in a temporary motor pool, and the vehicles were always subject to inspection for cleanliness, maintenance and contraband of any kind.

I remember it was a summer afternoon…hot and dusty…we were working on our tanks. The M60 tank had a separate Commander’s cupola atop the turret for the .50 caliber machine gun; the cupola also had a tray to hold the linked rounds of ammunition for the weapon. The tray had a series of doors inside the cupola that provided access to the ammo when loading or unloading belts. When it was not full of ammo, this place was a great area for the Tank Commander to store stuff; unfortunately, it was also a favorite target of inspectors, because trash and contraband tended to be left there unintentionally by the crew. It was also a place, on rare occasions, where ammunition (that was supposed to be down-loaded back to the ammo pad prior to departing the gunnery range) was found. This is a serious offense, punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with serious consequences, both immediate and to one’s career (safety and accountability matters).

The beloved First Sergeant in question was doing his due diligence, randomly inspecting tanks and other vehicles of the company, when…holy crap!, he found two belts (200 rounds) of .50 cal. ammunition left in this Staff Sergeant’s cupola from the previous night’s live-fire range! Not a good day.

First Sergeant loved to apply his own brand of unmerciful “corrective training” as an “option” to administrative punishment (documented-permanent). This career-minded Staff Sergeant accepted Top’s offer of re-training and was told that he needed to return the ammunition to the ammo pad on the range and then explain his error to the Ammunition NCO. Staff Sergeant requested to use the First Sergeant’s vehicle to travel to the range, as it was almost 5 miles one way, but the First Sergeant had a different idea. First Sergeant wanted this Staff Sergeant to have a “significant emotional event” connected to his corrective training (for maximum reinforcement) and instructed him to suit up in his field uniform and road march (walk) the belts of ammunition (draped over his shoulders and wrapped around his neck) out to the ammo pad…then he could completely humiliate himself apologizing to the Ammo NCO…wow!…then he could road march back to the Company area…morally defeated and physically exhausted…(shit like that hurts…it breaks the weak…only the strong survive). He did not get back to our barracks until late in the evening, and all he did was get out of his uniform and collapse on his cot.

Please do not feel too sorry for this Staff Sergeant though, he was another prick of misery…Karma is a bitch! We laughed then…I still laugh now!

Follow your bliss.





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