By Spc. Eric A. Rutherford
115th Mobile public affairs detachment
AL JURN, Iraq – With their 72-ton M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks parked in the motor pool, soldiers loaded their gear into wheeled trucks less than half the size of the tracked vehicles.
Tankers of Punisher Platoon, Dragon Company, 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, switched from their traditional jobs of manning the tanks as the squadron’s heavy element to driving patrols mounted in up-armored humvees.
“It’s kind of like going from a Corvette to a Volkswagen,” said Sgt. 1st Class J.C. Jensen, the platoon sergeant for Punisher, about making the switch. “The tank has 1,500 horsepower, it will go anywhere I point it, and the firepower and the optics are just incredible.”
Jensen, an Army tanker for more than 15 years, said while driving around in humvees is not something they are used to, he and his men are making it work.
The Punishers hit the road, on tires, not tracks, and headed for a small village known as Al Jurn. Their mission there was to investigate some suspicious activity and try to make contact with the local sheik who has not been in the area during recent patrols.
“We have been there several times as a platoon to assess what they might need for help,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Eagan, Punisher platoon leader. “They also have a sheik who controls a large part of the area of operation, and we haven’t been able to meet with him. We heard he was in the area, so we are going to try to meet with him.”
Eagan said he has had good experiences so far in the town, eating lamb, and drinking chai tea with the local villagers.
Today’s mission was different in that after the soft-knock on the local sheik’s house, who was still not home, the unit transitioned into providing security for a psychological operations team who needed to pass out handbills in the area.
Eagan said the Punishers have built relationships in the town, so transitioning from searching buildings for bad guys to providing security wasn’t a problem.
As the psychological operations team passed out handbills with wanted pictures on them, the men of Punisher provided security. The men were swarmed by children speaking broken English asking for pens and books.
After the handbills were all passed out and the villagers had a chance to wave and say goodbye, the Punishers mounted back up into their humvees and returned to base. No shots were fired and the entire platoon made it back safely.
When it comes to moving in humvees, Eagan said they got as much training on them as they could, but it is still a transition. They faced such challenges as deciding where to load things into the trucks and what to keep in the tanks. The Punishers also overcame situating the men in the truck based on their traditional positions in the tank.
“We are a month in, we like operating out of them (humvees), and we are getting into the flow of operating out of them,” Eagan said. “It isn’t as good as a tank. I wish we were on the tanks, but it is getting the job done.”