I'll start with my military history, I enlisted in the Regular Army in September of 1989 as a 36M, Switching Systems Operator. I shipped out for basic training on August 2nd, 1990. This just happened to be the same day as Iraq invaded Kuwait. Good Timing, Huh? I went to basic at Fort Jackson, SC, and AIT at Fort Gordon, GA. After this I shipped to my first duty station, Fort Riley KS.. The Home of the BIG RED ONE was in the throes of deployment at that time. I deployed to Saudi Arabia with them in January, 1991. I was in Commo Platoon of Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. I worked "22 Switch". After Desert Storm, my unit redeployed on 19 May, 1991 to Fort Riley. I remained there until I was sent in February 1992, to a new unit, in Germany. This unit was Company C, 51st Signal Battalion, stationed at Krabbenloch Kaserne in Ludwigsburg. There I transitioned to become a Mobile Subsciber Equipment Switch Operator, or 31F. I was a member of SEN Team "E-62". We participated in REFORGER 92 and then proceded to disband. My tour was cut short and after only one year, I was sent back stateside to Fort Hood, TX. At Fort Hood, I was a senior operator of my SEN "B-61" in Company C, 57th Signal Battalion, 3rd Signal Brigade. Even though Texas was not quite to my liking, my 16 months there with this unit was quite rewarding. Some units I supported were; Aviation Brigade, 2nd Armored Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 13th COSCOM, Numerous field excercices with the 6th Cavalry Brigade, and a rotation with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to NTC, Fort Irwin, (NTC 12-93). In July of 1994, I ended my time with the Regular Army of the United States. I moved to Minnesota and enrolled in college. To amuse myself and carry on with a dream, I joined the National Guard. With much luck, the local unit just happened to fit my dream perfectly. This unit was Company D, 1st Battalion, 94th Armor. I was going to be a tanker. This unit at that time was one of the last M60A3 units in the country. I was not displeased, the 60 is damn good tank, it's just a little slow, that's all. We traded them in in August of 1995 for M1IP's from North Carolina's NG. They got M1A1's. We finally transitioned to them in April, 1996, and just this summer completed our first Annual Training at Camp Ripley.. We fired gunnery and my tank crew, which I am the gunner, qualified Q1 with 830 points. Not too bad for the first time. Battallion high was 850. Next year we will shoot 1000.
Well It went something like this; I ended up being gunner again, but this time with a twist. I had two tank commanders, each one taking his turn on the range. What a racket! Two table VIII's at the same time! With the same driver, loader and gunner. Upload fuel and ammo(enough for two turns of course), boresight, fire, review, head back to the boresight line, re-boresight, wait on the ready line, then fire again, review, and finally rest. This cycle finally took its toll, (with some minor mechanical problems that we usually encounter, especially when you run tanks in this manner), with my like-clockwork, load'n machine, SGT David Smith falling off the tank after we completed our last run at 4 A.M. He's OK, but his back got somewhat sprained.
The damage for this escapade= SFC Nistler as TC 804 points,(578 of 600 Day, 226-bad-of 400 Night), CPT Gillen (D Co Commander)as TC, (905 points, 505 of 600 day, 400 of 400 Night.) This won us (me and my crew of course) the title of Battalion Top Gun, beating about 16 other crews. I must add that playing 'Ironman' like this is somewhat common. We had another crew with us from Headquarters Company that had two TC's. But they rotated crewmen around each time. The TC became the gunner, the gunner became the driver, and the driver the loader. Sometimes crewmen from other tank crews will fill in as loaders and driver because of injuries, emergencies, etc. But usually just for one run down the range. I personally do not ever want to do the 'Ironman' tanker thing again. And I don't wish it upon anybody else. And I cannot forget to not mention my driver, PVT Josh Swenson. He did a hell of a job for his first Annual Training, and gunnery. He previous tank driving experience was only Ft. Knox. Some of you might already know, but for those that don't, tankers don't get a lot of time behind 'real' T-bars in training. Like everything else will be, simulators have replaced the real thing. To use a line from 'Team Yankee' by Harold Coyle, 'I think if they can recognize a tank three out of four times, they're graduates.'