Here's What Life Is Like For US Army Tankers

With a 68-ton armored vehicle packing a 120mm cannon, U.S. Army tankers can take the fight to the enemy in just about any environment.

Tankers consider themselves part of a brotherhood with roots in World War I. Now driving the M1 Abrams tank, these soldiers continue that legacy today. Here is a taste of what their life is like.

US Army Tanker fire cannon at range gunner training

Photo: US Army Sgt Sarah Dietz

Also Read: These Crazy Photos Show 30+ Ton Tanks In Flight >

The Abrams can fire different rounds for different purposes, and tank crews have to train in a variety of environments. That means they get a lot of time on the range.

US Army Tanker firing range gunner training

Photo: US Army Sgt. Kim Browne

The crews are tested at twelve different levels, referred to as tables. The tables demand crews prove they can drive, fire, and coordinate together in battle in a variety of conditions.

US Army tankers train at the firing range in Idaho

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell

The main gun is what most people think of when it comes to tanks, but crews also have to certify on the machine guns mounted outside, as well as the M9 pistols and M4 carbines they’re equipped with.

US Army tank .50 cal

Photo Credit: Gertrud Zach/US Army

Crews generally have four members. There is a tank commander, a gunner, a driver, and a loader.

US Army tanker crew

Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

 The inside of the tank can be a little cramped with equipment and crew.

US Army tanker interior gunner attack

Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

The driver sits in a small hole in the front of the tank. His control panel is located immediately in front of him.

US Army tanker driver hole

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tankers sometimes bring their family to see the “office.”

US Army tanker family day showing off the tank

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ruth Pagan

Much of the maintenance for the tank is done by the crew.

Tank

Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

Considering everything the M1 is designed to withstand, it can be surprising that tanks sometimes break down because of soft sand or loose soil pushing a track out of place.

US Army tanker remove the tread from a damaged tank

Photo: US Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

When tanks break down and have to be towed out, it takes specialized equipment. The main recovery vehicle for an Abrams tank is the M88. Here, an M88 rolls up the tread from a damaged Abrams before towing the Abrams to a maintenance area.

US Army tank is recovered by an M88 which rolls up the damaged track and then tows it out

Photo: Us Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

Transporting tanks can also be problematic due to the tank’s weight. Crews will generally take their tanks to railways …

US Army tankers inspect arriving Abrams main battle tanks during an exercise

Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

… or Naval ports for transport for deployments or exercises. Here, an Abrams tank is driven off of a ship.

US Army tankers drive an Abrams tank off of a Navy ship

Photo: US Navy

When the mission calls for it, M1 tanks can also be flown on the Air Force’s largest planes.

US Army tanker A Marine Corps M1A1 sits on the flight line ready to be flown into Afghanistan

Photo: US Air Force Courtesy Photo

Air Force C-17s, like the one in the following photo, can carry one tank while C-5s can carry two.

US Army tankers assist the Air Force in loading their tank onto a C-17

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley

While on deployment, tankers can end up working for 20-hour days.

US Army tankers on deployment

Photo: US Army

U.S. tank crews are commonly called on to train foreign allies. Recently, the Iraqi Army got a large number of Abrams tanks and U.S. soldiers provided training.

US Army tankers conduct training in Abrams Main Battle Tank with the Iraqi Army

Photo: US Army Sgt. Chad Menegay

Sometimes the mission calls for tankers to operate on foot or from other vehicles. Here, tank crews conduct a patrol in Humvees.

US Army tankers conduct a patrol in HMMWV, or humvees, during their deployment.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Eric Rutherford

The tanker tradition dates back to WWI when the first combat cars and tanks took to the battlefield with tank crews leading the way into mechanized warfare.

US Army tanker recruiting poster WW

Photo: Poster by J.P. Wharton, Public Domain

 Today, US crews continue the tradition, carrying armored combat into the future.

US Army tankers in the motor pool surrounded by lots of Abrams main battle tanks M1

Photo: US Army Sgt. Aaron Braddy