A new Army rule that blocks some soldiers from naming their tanks is causing controversy -- with some arguing ending the military tradition would "alienate" rank-and-file service members.
The III Armored Corps out of Fort Hood, Texas, released a new policy earlier this year that narrowed which tank crews will be able to name their vehicles, tying what has been a longstanding Army tradition to crews who score in the highest bracket during gunnery qualification, according to a report Wednesday by Military.com.
However, some soldiers, including active Army officers, have been highly critical of the new rule, arguing enlisted members of tank crews will be less likely to take part in the rite.
"My immediate reaction is that this will alienate junior crews while ensuring that officers get to name their tanks," a field-grade armor officer anonymously told Military.com, noting that officers are typically assigned to tanks with the best gunners.
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With the best gunners assigned to officers, junior tank crews are less likely to do as well during qualification and less likely to be able to participate in the tradition of naming their vehicle.
"To deny them the ability to name their tanks while almost ensuring that [officers] will, due to the experience of their gunner, creates a dichotomous culture that doesn't breed competition, but animosity," the officer said.
Another veteran, who was an active-duty armor officer, called the new policy a "dumb rule," arguing too few crews will be able to participate in the tradition.
"Sounds like a dumb rule that has [command sergeant major] written all over it," the former officer said. "Not that many crews will shoot distinguished, so there will be very few named tanks.
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"But tankers really look forward to naming their tank after gunnery," the officer added. "It's something that [the] crew talks about when it's sitting for hours on the firing line, waiting for its turn to shoot."
The tradition of crews being able to name their tanks goes all the way back to World War II, with the former officer saying that the practice has long been a way for soldiers to build camaraderie in a field that experiences high turnover.
"Any opportunity for crews to bond is important," the former officer said. "Taking away the source of camaraderie that they get from naming their tank is a mistake. But the bottom line is that the policy will change again in two years when there's a new [commanding general] or CSM."
However, not everyone agrees the change is an issue, with one current soldier who used to be a tanker saying the rule could help motivate soldiers to better maintain their tanks.
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"I understand the guidance in the sense that we should really be getting after maintenance and really [be] dedicated to your platform," the soldier said. "So if you truly want to name your tank, you put in the time to do all the effort in maintaining it… It's such a huge thing for tankers to qualify first time and shoot distinguished and really have a good working tank all the time."
However, the new rules ban members who qualify on another crews tank from being able to name their own, something the soldier admitted could lead to issues.
"Sometimes, it is tough to qualify off of your own platform because of the maintenance piece -- you can only control so much of maintenance and your tanks will break down," the soldier said.
A spokesperson for III Armored Corps defended the new rules in a statement to Military.com, saying that the policy was a way of honoring tradition while demanding high performance standards.
"Naming a fighting platform is a long-standing tradition that we value; we are adding to that tradition by requiring more of ourselves," Lt. Col. Tania Donovan said. "Our nation expects nothing less."
Donovan also noted that the new rules will not just restrict who can name their tanks, but what kind of names are allowed on the vehicles.
"Vehicle names must be appropriate [in accordance with] the Army Values, connected to the unit's history, and approved by the battalion commander," Donovan said.