End of an Era: Marine Corps Begins Eliminating Entire Tank Force

M1 Abrams tanks have been removed from the largest Marine Corps base as part of the military branch’s new force structure plan unveiled in March.

The last M1 Abrams left the Marine Corps’ base at 29 Palms in California on July 6, The Drive reported.

The Marines are also retiring M88 armored recovery vehicles and Armored Vehicle Launched Bridges.

The retirement of the tanks is part of the branch’s 10-year revamp plan to reinvent itself as a naval expeditionary force, as revealed by Marine Corps commandant Gen. David Berger in March.

“China, in terms of military capability, is the pacing threat,” Berger told The Wall Street Journal at the time.

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“If we did nothing, we would be passed.”

The plan includes getting rid of all tanks, cutting back on the aircraft and shrinking in total numbers from 189,000 to 170,000.

“I have come to the conclusion that we need to contract the size of the Marine Corps to get quality,” Berger said.

The retired vehicles have been consolidated at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow in California, The Drive reported.

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The M1s, M88s and AVLB’s are then being sent to the U.S. Army’s Sierra Army Depot in California, a storage facility, and Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, the branch’s “premier armored vehicle maintenance facility,” according The Drive.

The Marine Corps plans to eventually divest the more than 400 vehicles of the M1 fleet, however, it is unclear if it will also divest their M1-based M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles.

The M1150 is meant to clear obstacles like mines and could still be useful in amphibious landings.

The 4th Battalion, which is part of the Marine Corps Forces reserve and has six tank companies, is scheduled to stand down for good in 2021.

“Remember that our tanks were just weapon systems,” Marine Corps Captain Rothrock said during the inactivation ceremony.

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“[Tanks are] a d— fine weapon system, but nonetheless, just equipment. You individual Marines were always the key to the company’s success.”

The first tank unit was established in 1923 and the Marines received their first M1A1 in 1989.

It remains to be seen when the last of the M1s will be retired, but the removal of the tanks from 29 Palms shows how quickly the service is moving to implement Berger’s plan.

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