Musings of a Tanker-Joining Up

Joined the army to get money for college. Wanted to join tanks because my great Uncle10479534_10206333941729168_1298285649498770301_n Matt Mattes died in Holland as a tank crewman. It was taboo. I was also looking to drink, see the world. I always knew I would serve, as almost every generation of my family has served our country as far back as the Civil War.

My great Uncle died in the fields of France. My great great-great-grandfather lost a leg in the Civil War as a Union Soldier. My daughter’s great-great-grandfather served in the horse cavalry in the early 1900s. I still have his saddle. I thought I would join the Navy, as had my Grandfather, a purple heart recipient Navy Corpsman at Guadalcanal.

My father served about Navy destroyers in Vietnam. He bombed the shores and supply lines. His destroyer was directly behind the Maddox and Turner Joy when they were hit with North Vietnamese gun fire. He saw the damage. It happened.

My uncle followed up by flying as a navigator on the EA-6B Prowler on the U.S.Kitty Hawk and America in the 70s. The Mattes and Osborne name have been well represented in the military. I almost forgot my three uncles on mom’s side. My Uncle Don Hegewald served in bomb disposal in Korea. My Uncle Don and Gerald, my mom’s older brothers, both served along the border in Korea, as the Cold War began to freeze. Continue reading

TANKER STORY NUMBER 5

Sean Provart and Ozzy take Crazy Train without a lot of permission.

Crazy Train

Crazy Train

In April of 1989, I was about three months short of getting out. I had been offered sergeant stripes if I agreed to extend my enlistment for a few months, but I was just about done with the Army at that point. I was the company armorer for my tank company, Charlie, 1-64 Armor Battalion, 24th Infantry Division stationed at Fort Stewart Georgia, just about 30 minutes west of Savannah.

We were training at the US Army’s National Training Center (NTC) outside of Barstow, California, in a huge war game exercise that the American tank battalions go through every two years. In Germany, we trained in these exercises at a place called Hohenfels and Grafenwohr Germany four times a year. We flew from Georgia to California in a can of whoop-ass, a C-130, but that is another story.

Crazy Train was known as the tank with the two Specialist 4s (Spec 4s… now known as simply a Specialist). A Spec 4 is essentially as high you can go as an enlisted person before becoming a non-commissioned officer. Infantry units have corporals, but tanks have specialists. The reason is that the four man crew must always have enlisted men to do the grunt work. Specialists don’t really care, are VERY good at their job, and just want to be left alone until 5pm rolls around so they can run to the bar, drink beer and find women. (That didn’t ever happen, but we thought if we kept trying eventually we would meet someone hot that just love to meet tankers.) I REALLY wanted to meet Heather Locklear. I went to BASIC and then served on a tank for a short periods of time with her first cousin, Kenny Locklear. He didn’t look anything like her, FYI. I’m still irritated that she didn’t fly over to Germany to visit us. Continue reading