The ultimate "head rush" for the tanker is gunnery. However, there is a tremendous amount of work involved, not to mention sleepless nights. Many experienced tankers cannot count the number of times they pulled "fog watch" at the ranges of Grafenwoehr, or waited until the thunderstorms stopped at Fort Knox. And who can forget the joy of unloading the ammo trucks?
Left, Loading up... Before shooting, it was necessary to prepare the vehicles. Besides loading ammunition, various aspects of maintenance had to be performed. An interesting item in this photo... the man in the TC's position in the near tank is not an officer, but instead is an officer cadet from West Point (his rank was a silver bar with black outline). These tanks belong to the 4/37 Armor at Ft. Knox, KY (194th Arm Bde).
Loading up the M-85... The M-85 machine gun is mounted in the cupola and operated by the tank commander. When firing, the TC yells out "Caliber 50!" to alert the rest of the crew that he is engaging a target. Typical targets are thin-skinned and even very lightly armored vehicles. On the M-60 series tanks it was possible to engage two separate targets at the same time (main gun and .50 cal.). On the M-48a5 series it was possible to engage three separate targets, with commander, gunner and loader all engaging with 7.62mm machine guns.
Hurry up and wait... Much of the time during gunnery is spent waiting. When not pulling maintenance or guard duty, the typical crewman tried to make use of the time as best as possible. The tower behind is from where the gunnery was coordinated. These tanks are already on the line, and the second one back flies both red and green flags indicating "dry fire" practice.
The Flags on the Range.......
Green: all weapons cleared and up and down range.
Red: weapons "hot" and engaging targets.
Yellow: malfunction (flown with red or green).
Red/green: "dry fire" training.
The Fate of the Hind Helicopter Target (1st Bde, 3AD Graf gunnery 1979):
During the summer gunnery at Grafenwoehr in 1979 it was decided to build a frontal aspect of a Soviet Hind helicopter, since it was possible that one could engage a Hind while it remaind stationary to fire its wire guided Swatter missiles. The target was made of wood, and measured about 8 feet high and 5 feet across. Tanks from the 2/32 armored successively went down range and engaged this target, which had been set on top of a telephone pole at a range of 2800 meters.
Somebody had asked, "what should happen if we hit the pole?" but few took the possibility seriously. Even when a tank from B Company nicked the pole, nobody really worried about the possibility that somebody might actually "shoot" the helicopter down from its perch. That is, until a tank from C Company rolled down the range road to engage targets. Other crews listened to the conversation between the range tower and the tank from Charlie Co. as the crew engaged the Hind.
Tower: "You are being engaged by one Hind helicopter, right-front... fire." Everyone paused, knowing the routine being played out inside the turret. The gun boomed and the tracer flew down range........ and feel short of the Hind, glancing off of the pole without visible effect.
Tower: "Short line." Then suddenly the pole buckled, sending the Hind target to slam into the ground in a shower of splinters.
The gunner of the Charlie Co. tank was quick to respond: "Correction.... TARGET." The entire tank line roared with laughter.