Lejeune Marine named best tanker, again

4 Oct 2002 | Cpl. Allan J. Grdovich

The Marine Corps' "best" East Coast tank crew had reason to celebrate last month when its commander was named "Tanker of the Year." Sergeant Paul A. Forde, a tanker with Camp Lejeune's prestigious 2nd Tank Battalion received the honor for the second straight year. For his efforts, the North Carolina-based Marine will receive an elaborate plaque and the recognition of being one of America's deadliest tankers.The 26-year-old said he joined the Corps in 1998 on an "open contract," meaning he did not know what job he would be doing in the military. He said the secret to his success is his love for the job."If you don't love what you do, it is very hard to excel at any task," he said. "Lucky for me, I was assigned to something I do well."Forde grew up in the Jamaica section of Queens, N.Y., where he graduated from Andrew Jackson High School before beginning his short, yet successful Marine Corps career. Afterward, Forde landed a job with a local shipping company and said he had the urge, but lacked the discipline to join the military at 18 years old. As fate had it, Forde eventually wound up amidst the sand fleas and heat of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. He graduated basic training in March 1998. Forde later reported to Marine tanker school here, where he naturally excelled and gained his love for the 45-ton war machines."Since I was a kid, I've always thought tanks were the baddest weapon around," said Forde, who has the tanker military occupational code "1812" tattooed on his forearm. To receive the "Tanker of the Year" award, a Marine must be selected by his superiors and be reviewed by a board of fellow tankers. Board members review the individual's past accomplishments, to include basic Marine skills, and job proficiencies. Since the award is sponsored Corpswide, the selection process is very competitive and may mean competing against dozens of other Marines. "There is no doubt in my mind he is the best tanker out here. He is an asset to any unit," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Frank Cordero Jr., operations chief for 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.Though Forde is an avid tanker, his goals reach beyond his current unit and duty station. He said he hopes to relocate to South Carolina when his Camp Lejeune tour is over."My first wish is to become a drill instructor at Parris Island. The thought of making Marines excites me. Beyond that, I still want to be a tanker, but hope to do so with 1st Tank Battalion."Forde was here in September participating in the seventh annual Corpswide tank gunnery competition called TIGERCOMP. His unit lost to 1st Tank Battalion, based at Twentynine Palms, Calif., after winning the previous two competitions.