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MIGHTY TACTICAL
Sgt. Tayler Schwamb

US Marines compete to find the Corps' most lethal tank crew

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The hot California sun beamed, drawing beads of sweat, but the US Marines, Vietnam veterans and members of the local community were heedless. Hands holding phones, binoculars and video cameras hovered as they anxiously waited for another ground shaking explosion.

A murmur erupted from the sweat-slicked crowd perched on top of the Range 409A observation point as 4th Tank Battalion's M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fired another dead-center hit during TIGERCOMP Aug. 29, 2019, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

According to Lt. Col. Matthew Zummo, the commanding officer of 1st Tank Battalion, TIGERCOMP has been the Marine Corps tank gunnery competition since 1996. The three Marine Tank Battalions compete to determine the Corps' most lethal tank crew. Following a six-year break from 2003-2009, the competition was reignited in 2010.


"First Tanks is hosting this year's competition," said Zummo. "We selected Range 409A as the venue to enable a better spectator experience compared to the usual Range 500 at 29 Palms. The winning crew will have the opportunity to compete in the Sullivan Cup, which is the Army's total force tank gunnery competition."

Hand-selected Marines from across the Corps, active duty and reserve, traveled to Camp Pendleton to compete in the tank gunnery competition. TIGERCOMP consisted of a physical training competition, call for fire and vehicle identification.

US Marines selected to compete in TIGERCOMP meet the local and military community on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

"TIGERCOMP makes the companies want to dig a little deeper to be the top shooters," said Sgt. Johnathan Wright, the tank commander of 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.

US Marine veteran Michael Jiron watches the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

Throughout four days before the competition, the Marines executed a total of 10 engagements prepping the teams for their final grading portion.

A medium tactical vehicle replacement at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

On the first day, the Marines woke up before the sun to compete in a physical training competition. The physical training test started with the longest two minutes imaginable. The Marines had two minutes to complete as many clean-and-presses with a 50 pound heat round.

US Marine Corps videographer Pfc. Jacob Yost records an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

Immediately after, the Marines were handed pieces of tank track. Once they held the chunks of track, the Marines began the 500-meter track shuffle.

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

"The PT was … strenuous," said Wright, rubbing the back of his neck. "Then we did a tow cable drag, you do a bear crawl with the tow cable, stand up and run back, but the most difficult part was the road wheel drag."

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The Marines were given tires from the tanks, known as road wheels, and told to keep two hands on it at all times. To finish the PT test, the huffing participants competed in a one-mile boots and utes run. In the afternoon, the Marines began their shooting workup program.

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

On the second day, the teams picked two or three of their best Marines to compete in a call for fire. A call for fire is a commonly used request providing succinct messages that determine the best methods of attack.

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

On the third day, the Marines began their armored vehicle identification test. The test included American and Russian modes of transportation, helicopters and thermal images. The Marines glanced at the image for 10 seconds, and then hastily scribbled. On the fourth day, the Marines finished their workup program.

M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

On the fifth day, veterans and members of the local community gathered alongside Marines to watch the tanks compete and revel in the tanks' lethal accuracy.

US Marine 1st Lt. Daniel Lyrla, operations officer in charge of planning TIGERCOMP, talks to the local and military communities during the TIGERCOMP awards ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

In the end, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, collected the enormous TIGERCOMP trophy, the pride and joy of the tank community.

US Marines with 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve celebrate during the TIGERCOMP awards ceremony on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

Stay tuned to watch the Marines compete against the soldiers in the Sullivan Cup, the Army's precision gunnery competition. The next competition that will rigorously test US soldiers, US Marines and international partners is set for 2020 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.