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.
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.
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.
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.
Crews generally have four members. There is a tank commander, a gunner, a driver, and a loader.
The inside of the tank can be a little cramped with equipment and crew.
The driver sits in a small hole in the front of the tank. His control panel is located immediately in front of him.
Tankers sometimes bring their family to see the "office."
Much of the maintenance for the tank is done by the crew.
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.
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.
Transporting tanks can also be problematic due to the tank's weight. Crews will generally take their tanks to railways ...
... or Naval ports for transport for deployments or exercises. Here, an Abrams tank is driven off of a ship.
When the mission calls for it, M1 tanks can also be flown on the Air Force's largest planes.
Air Force C-17s, like the one in the following photo, can carry one tank while C-5s can carry two.
While on deployment, tankers can end up working for 20-hour days.
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.
Sometimes the mission calls for tankers to operate on foot or from other vehicles. Here, tank crews conduct a patrol in Humvees.
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.
Today, US crews continue the tradition, carrying armored combat into the future.