FORT KNOX, Ky. --
Marines with 1st, 2nd, and 4th Tank Battalions participated in the 15th annual Tiger Competition, Aug. 24–28, 2018 at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
The annual competition tested tank crews’ basic skills in an innovative fashion to determine the best tank crew throughout the entire Marine Corps.
“The annual Tiger Competition puts the three best tank crews together in a competition that tests them in tank gunnery, armored vehicle identification, physical fitness and call for fire,” said Gunnery Sgt. Rehan Chanmugam, a master gunner with 4th Tank Bn.
The capabilities of the tank crews were tested on their ability to hit targets accurately, assess their communication and decision-making skills, and evaluate their knowledge of armored vehicles.
“It’s a Marine Corps-wide competition between the best tank crews from all three battalions and they go out and conduct tables designed by all three battalion master gunners to see who trains the best crews,” said Sgt. Joshua McCario, a ramp chief with 4th Tank Bn.
Not only is the annual competition important because of the quantifiable aspects resulting in a winner each year, but it also improves the morale and overall welfare of the Marines involved.
“The competition is important because it keeps that Marine Corps competitive spirit alive,” said Cpl. Jared Lopez, a tank driver with 4th Tank Bn. “Seeing who’s the best, keeping us on our toes and keeping us active.”
For tank crews across the Marine Corps, the annual Tiger Competition impacts them throughout the entire year, every year. It isn’t just a competition that begins and then ends, it has lasting influence on the crews throughout the year.
“It allows the Marine Corps to see which battalion has trained the hardest over the past year and sets a standard for other crews to train up to,” McCario said. “Everybody wants to be out shooting with the best.”
Each year the competition is hosted at a different range. This unpredictability improves the combat readiness of the tank crews and their ability to fight whenever and wherever they are called to.
“It is an opportunity for them to see a different range, different targets and different opportunities,” Chanmugam said. “The Tiger Competition is a more advanced gunnery table than they traditionally see. So it allows them to improve on skills they already have.”
Tanks and their crews need to be adaptable in different environments, considering they could deploy to any place at any time. The various ranges, tables, and assessments of the competition strengthen the Marine Forces Reserve’s readiness to fight tonight.
“It’s a chance for them to go out to different ranges,” McCario said. “The ranges are pretty well set up for tanks. It gives them an opportunity to see tank training in a different environment, and they’re able to go back to their units and use what they learn here to train their fellow crew members and platoons.”
Hands-on training and experience is invaluable for Marines to be combat-ready. The type of training and evaluation the participating Marines experienced is the closest they can get to actual combat.
“The more practice you get with tanks, the more real training you get,” Lopez said. “Sometimes your gun gets put into emergency mode or you get a laser rangefinder failure. It is definitely beneficial for improving combat readiness.”
The tank crews were not the only Marines who participated in the competition and tanks were not the only equipment required.
“Logistically there were a lot of moving parts,” McCario said. “We provided all of the tools, parts, mechanics, fuel and ammunition. We also coordinated with range control and got the range all squared away for competition.”
Copious amounts of planning and preparation were required for the event to run smoothly and to be successful. Tanks need maintenance, ammunition, fuel and more, which required more Marines than just the tank crews.
“The range and ammunition had to be forecasted, fuel had to be acquired and maintenance crews and communication technicians had to be brought in to support,” Chanmugam said.
Without the Marines’ hard work and dedication, the competition wouldn’t exist. Countless hours of maintenance, planning, and solutions to unforeseen events are the foundation of the competition.
“I want people to know how hard the Marines worked,” McCario said. “What a lot of people don’t know is how high maintenance a tank is. The Marines were out there working 14–15 hour days just to keep their tanks running and in the fight. On average, every hour of operation requires six hours of maintenance. I just want people to know the Marines are the best of the best.
Tanks are crucial to the Marine Corps. The annual Tiger Competition is a vital source of training, cohesiveness, and readiness within the Marine Forces Reserve.
"The Marine Corps needs tanks,” Lopez said. “Reliable and powerful weapons, that destroy things and get the job done. It is what makes the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps. You can’t have the Marine Corps without tanks.”