CAMP RIPLEY (AP) -- A million-dollar, 66-ton vehicle, with a maximum speed of just 45 mph might not sound like a good investment. Especially when it only covers two miles on a gallon of fuel.
But not so for the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 194th Armor of the Minnesota Army National Guard, who conducted tank gunnery training at Camp Ripley with their new M1-A1 tanks for the first time last week.
Saturday, a red flag signaling loaded guns and choppy military lingo from loudspeakers were the only warning signs before a bright flash of fiery orange light was followed by an earth shaking "KABOOM." The main gun's shock wave created a swirl of dust around the tank.
Earlier this year, the battalion from Brainerd, St. Cloud, Sauk Center and Wadena -- formerly an infantry unit -- began retraining as a tank unit.
"It's exciting and very different from the infantry," said a smiling Rick Berens, a Melrose native and new tank commander. "I don't have to walk anymore. I get to ride around in a big gun."
Starting last Monday, the crews began living out with their tanks on Camp Ripley's 2,500-meter Miller Complex East Range.
"During training the men live on the tank together," Maj. Kevin Gutknecht said. "They sweat together, and they train to be a crew. It trains them to be one. Without them, the tank is just a pile of bolts."
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