2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment tanks prepare to fire at Rodriguez Range on Thursday.

2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment tanks prepare to fire at Rodriguez Range on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — Fireballs flared from the barrels of M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks training with 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment here last week.

The tanks were nearing the end of a two-week sustainment gunnery that also involved 2-9’s Bradley fighting vehicles, which sent thousands of live rounds downrange to qualify crews in preparation for October’s platoon-level training.

The officer in command at the range on Thursday, 2nd Lt. Jason Willis of 2-9’s Company D, said the tankers faced challenging weather conditions, with thick fog obscuring targets 600 to 2,000 yards away. Once the fog receded, however, the tanks quickly rolled out onto the range and began to open up on their targets.

The sustainment gunnery involved day and night range sessions, said the commander of 2-9’s Company C, Capt. Scott Pence, 29, of Columbus, Ohio.

Company C joined 2-9 in December last year from 1st Battalion, 72nd Armored Regiment, he said.

When the tankers came to 2-9 they were used to working mostly with other tankers and linking up with Bradley fighting vehicle units only for particular exercises. Now the tanks work with the Bradleys every time they go to the field, he said.

“The infantry is right there next to us. We know the people we will be working with now. Before we would just attach, and it would be the first time we would meet them,” Pence said.

The tankers have adopted 2-9’s customs and plan to add “Manchu hair” to their helmets to fit in with the unit, nicknamed “Manchus,” he added.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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