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New in 2021: The final year for Marine tankers

The year 2021 will go down as the year that the Marine Corps ditched its tank Marines.

Though the official decision came down in March 2020 from Maine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger, and the tanks rolled away on train cars from 1st Tank Battalion, 2nd Tank Battalion, and 4th Tank Battalion this past summer, the tankers themselves are still in uniform and their units remain at least for a few more months.

The first to go was A Company, 4th Tank Battalion, in July when the unit cased its colors. Then C Company deactivated in August.

So, following the announcement, an estimated 800 Marines in a tank-related military occupational specialty were given the option to swap jobs or, if they had 15 years retire early. Then, in December, the Corps posted an official administrative message that allowed enlisted and officer tank MOS holders to end their contracts one year early.

Shortly after the C Company deactivation, 39 of its approximately 80 members transferred from the Marine Corps Reserve to the Idaho Army National Guard, most to continue on in tank jobs.

U.S. Marines with the Combined Arms Company in Bulgaria and members of the Norwegian Army drifted their 126,000 pound M1A1 Abrams tanks around an ice track as part of their pre-exercise training in Rena, Norway, Feb. 18, 2016. (Marine Corps)
The Corps is axing all of its tank battalions and cutting grunt units

As part of Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s plan to redesign the force to confront China and other peer adversaries by 2030, the Marines are axing all three of its tank battalions, and chucking out all law enforcement battalions and bridging companies, according to a news release from Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

War games from 2018 and 2019 helped Berger and top Marine leaders pull the trigger on ditching tanks and other major force redesign efforts. Those include reducing the size of the Corps by 12,000 Marines in the next decade, increasing training, reducing conventional artillery in favor of rocket systems and pushing funding to more advanced weapons systems.

Former Marine tank mechanic and 2nd Tank Battalion member Sgt. James Webb also held billets as a driver, rigger and vehicle commander with deployments to Greece, Kuwait and Jordan, he said in a statement.

Begging in October, he started on-the-job training at the Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, headquarters building, running the Marine Mart.

He offered advice to fellow former tankers, and any Marine looking for a change.

“Don’t base your whole Marine Corps experience on your MOS, on your one duty station, or on one enlistment,” Webb said. “Don’t give up. There are so many MOSs that people don’t know about. Do research and find the one that clicks for you.”

The 2nd Tank Battalion is undergoing steps for formal deactivation, which is scheduled for sometime in mid-2021, 2nd Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt. Dan Linfante told Marine Corps Times.

The 1st Tank Battalion is planning its deactivation ceremony for summer 2021, officials with 1st Marine Division said in October.

Fourth Tank Battalion is expected to also be fully deactivated by the end of fiscal year 2021, which concludes at the end of September.

Third Tank Battalion was deactivated in the early 1990s following the Persian Gulf War.

This is an excerpt from “21 Things Marines Need To Know For 2021,” in the January print edition of Marine Corps Times.

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