FORT KNOX, Ky. -- For the past two years 2nd Tank Battalion has claimed the bragging rights of having the best tank crew in the Marine Corps. Unfortunately, this year its competitors were doing a little more than California dreaming.
The tankers from Twentynine Palms, Calif., pulled away with an upset, dethroning the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based warriors during the TIGERCOMP VII Tank Gunnery Competition here Sept. 21.
The winners -- Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Galloway, commander; Cpl. Andrew Dietz, gunner; Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Leinbach, loader; and Lance Cpl. Christopher R. Pugh, driver, all assigned to B Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division -- outshot their opponents, giving the unit its third TIGERCOMP victory since the competition's inception.
"We trained hard and my guys had their game faces on today. I am very proud they pulled it off," said Galloway.
Originating in October 1996, TIGERCOMP pits the Marine Corps' best tank crews against one another. Four battalions, two active and two reserve, send their best crews to compete at Yano Gunnery Range here. They are tested on their decision-making abilities, communication skills, technical proficiency and unit cohesiveness while operating the M-1A1 Abrams tank.
"It was hard to get here, so every crew that makes it to TIGERCOMP is good," said Lance Cpl. Jonathan L. Compton, a 2nd Tank Battalion driver. "In my opinion, the winner usually depends on who's having a better day."
According to the Glasgow, Ky., native, the crews undergo months of intensive training at their home bases preparing for the competition.
The competition's evolution lasts about 45 minutes as the crews fire their M-240G and .50-caliber machine guns along with their 120 mm main gun at pop-up targets resembling enemy armored vehicles, said Staff Sgt. John E. Bankus, a master gunner with B Company, 2nd Tank Battalion.
The winner is selected by an added point system graded by a panel of impartial judges, to include U.S. Army tankers.
The West Coast Marines each received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and returned to their home base located in the Mojave Desert with the coveted McCard Trophy, named after Medal of Honor recipient Gunnery Sgt. Robert H. McCard known for courage and valor while serving in Saipan.
Winners of previous TIGERCOMP competitions include 4th Tank Battalion, who won TIGERCOMP's I and IV; 1st Tank Battalion, who topped II and III; and 2nd Tank Battalion, who blasted its way to first in V and VI.