Fort Hood’s III Armored Corps — which includes some of the oldest formations of their types in the U.S. Army, including the 1st Armored Division and 1st Cavalry Division — released a new policy in late January limiting who gets to lovingly stencil a new name on an M1 Abrams main battle tank’s smoothbore gun.
“Only vehicle crews who qualify ‘Distinguished’ on their own platform (combat vehicle) may name their platform” under the new policy, III Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Tania Donovan told Task & Purpose in a statement.
This is a departure from tradition for soldiers lucky enough to fill armor jobs during their time in the service. Naming an M1 Abrams main battle tank upon taking command of the armored warhorse is something of a sacred right that separates America’s tankers from everyone else in uniform.
While the processes for naming tanks tend to vary from unit to unit and commander to commander, most armored vehicles usually receive their names following the successful completion of a qualification course and before a crew takes formal command of their new steed.
“Crews who qualify ‘Distinguished’ on a platform borrowed from a different crew are not authorized to name their platform,” Donovan added. “Crews who fail to maintain ‘Distinguished’ qualification will remove their vehicle name during range recovery operations.”
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The policy effectively turns the tradition of tank naming into a training reward. According to Donovan, the new policy was designed “to incentivize excellence, to master the fundamentals, and ensure we produce lethal crews that will win in combat.”
“Naming a fighting platform is a long-standing tradition that we value; we are adding to that tradition by requiring more of ourselves,” Donovan said. “Our nation expects nothing less.”
In addition to restricting the process for naming tanks, the new policy mandates that tank names “must be appropriate [in accordance with] the Army Values, connected to the unit’s history, and approved by the battalion commander,” Donovan said.
This clause in the policy may appear cause for concern to tankers who have embraced unorthodox but not less intimidating tank names in the past. Under the new rules, names like ASVAB Waiver, Barbie Dreamhouse, and Dropped as a Baby would almost certainly become verboten.
News of the new policy first appeared on the popular r/Army subreddit in a post from an anonymous III Corps tanker, who wrote that the new policy has resulted “in numerous social media posts of crews sadly painting over their gun tubes.”
“With all the focus of senior leaders trying to figure out how to build esprit de corps and get people excited about the Army, it seems incredibly out of touch to take something like this away,” wrote the anonymous III Corps tanker.
“When the Army is trying to get us to ‘tell our Army story’ and use social media and word of mouth advertising to help drive recruiting/retention maybe we shouldn’t implement policies aimed at taking the fun out of the job.”
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