This Is Just A Tank Crossing The Street In Russia, No Big Deal

You know how it is: You're driving along, listening to your music or chatting with your passenger, just minding your own business without a care in the world, and then a tank crosses the street in front of you. Happens all the time.


Oh wait, you're saying it doesn't? Hmm. Maybe it's because you don't live in Russia. Everything I have seen on the subject — this YouTube clip and the movie Goldeneye, to be exact — leads me to believe this sort of thing is common over there.

The passengers in this don't even seem to shaken by the tank. They just kind of pause for a bit and then continue on, perhaps wondering what kind of mileage the tank gets. It's Russia. Tanks are no big deal.

Hat tip to Petrus!


Reborn Pyrrhic

I had a similar encounter years ago when I just a lowly private in the United States Army. At the time I was stationed at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, 55 miles north of Barstow in the Mojave Desert, AKA the middle of nowhere. This was 1999, before 9-11, and all the Army did was train, train, and train some more for whichever war comes next. National Training Center, or NTC for short, is a huge Army base bigger than the state of Rhode Island, where the Army wages huge tank battles that are a high tech game of laser tag. Each and every month we would see all sorts of tanks around base: Abrahams, Bradleys, old M113s, even the odd Soviet-built tank or APC that the US Army brought home from the Gulf War.

On this particular day I was driving the nicest Econoline van I ever drove in the Army. It belonged to my unit, it had a lifted suspension, off road tires and four wheel drive; a kick ass van that we often took off roading in the NTC. I am a helicopter mechanic in the Army, and on many occasions if we had to go deep downrange for aircraft support missions we often took the Econoline. We weren’t part of the training but just support personnel, so we didn’t need to drive a tactical vehicle, and the Econoline had air-conditioning, a luxury we could never dream of having in one of our Humvees. The a/c came in handy during our often brutally hot summers at the desert.

So I was at the wheel, driving the Econoline, coming back from Bicycle Lake Army Airfield into garrison (that’s the military term for the “downtown” part of an Army base). My passenger was none other than CW5 Moody. Mr Moody, as we called him, was a Chief Warrant Officer 5, and one thing you civilians need to know is that a CW5 is a warrant officer who has reached the pinnacle of his or her career. There is no higher rank that soldier will ever achieve, all they can do is retire. There are very few people that will ever tell a CW5 what to do, and those people usually wear stars on their uniforms, usually three or four stars. In US Army Aviation a CW5 is akin to the god’s messenger to us lowly aircraft mechanics and pilots. He is the seniormost aviator in a unit, a master specialist in his field, with over 25 to 30 years in military service. They are old and wise. Senior commanders wisely utilize their CW5s as mentors, fact checkers and bullshit reducers. Mr Moody had another thing going for his military credo, as he was one of the few remaining Vietnam veterans still on active duty, and he had three torus in Nam under his belt, had flown numerous Dust Off (air medical evacuation) missions flying UH-1 Hueys, and had almost a dozen Army Air Medals for his thousands of hours flying actual combat missions. His demeanor was from grumpy to angry, living up to his name, Moody. I was a lowly private E2, brand new in the Army, wet behind the ears, driving The Word of God, and all I knew was this guy was definitely in charge of the vehicle even though I was the one driving it.

So, back to the driving. Heading back into garrison from Bicycle Lake you drive on a paved road that is flanked on both sides by four to five foot tall berms, they are tank berms, whose purpose is exactly to prevent tanks to just dart across the pavement like in this video. The berms do an excellent job of stopping the tanks from driving across, although once in a while a tanker successfully goes over those berms. The tanks must however cross the pavement, so there are a few tank intersections, where the berm is cut, and the pavement there goes from asphalt to concrete (concrete is less susceptible to tank track erosion than asphalt), and there are signs warning of tank crossing on the paved road. On the intersections the tank are supposed to come to a complete halt, and only cross when the traffic has cleared. Tanks do not have the right of way when crossing this road. Often there are lots of tanks to cross the road, in which case road guards will block traffic to allow the heavy armored vehicles across.

On this particular day I was driving along the road, doing the speed limit, perhaps 35 mph, when we came up to a tank intersection. I could see a Bradley fighting vehicle coming up from the right on the other side of the berm. I had been driving on this road for a few months on the way to work, and tanks always stop on the intersections, I had never seen one just drive without stopping, so I never slowed down. Neither did the Bradley… as I got close to the center of the intersection I noticed that the huge hunk of metal was just going to drive across without stopping. Fortunately I got on the brakes quick enough and slammed them hard, testing the tensioning strength of both mine and Mr Moody’s seat belts. We stopped in time, and the fighting vehicle crossed the pavement barely ten feet in front of us, at full speed, going at least 35 mph. Had we not stopped on time we would not be flatted to the ground under that vehicle’s track and would have become just another Army safety accident statistic. As the Bradley charged across the road in front of us a huge cloud of light brown dust made of the Mojave’s fine sand followed it, engulfing our vehicle as it speed away.

Mr Moody was furious beyond belief, and would have none of it. “Private, follow that tank!!”, he yelled. The thought of chasing after a speeding tank in an Econoline van seemed fun, but I was new in the Armyu and was still testing the waters, and was not looking forward to getting in trouble with my boss and perhaps losing rank and pay in the process. I uttered a faint “but…”, which was replied by a loud and thunderous “God damn it, I said follow that fucking tank!!” by a Chief Warrant Officer Five. What he said was the law, and I considered that well, he was in charge, and to use the famous saying military people use when they fuck up, ’I was just following orders, came in handy now. I yanked left on the steering wheel and turned into the tank trail, following a huge cloud of dust, without seeing the armored vehicle.

I speed up on the somewhat smooth tank trail, after the Bradley, going up to 50 mph or more. I soon caught up to the vehicle, and Mr Moody ordered me to get along its side, which I did. I was now in hot pursuit of an armored vehicle in a huge 15 passenger van, and we were starting to bounce as the road went from smooth to bumpy. Those tanks are very smooth on rough roads, and although Mr Moody was trying to get the tank to slow down he wasn't succeeding, as there was no tank commander on the upper hatch as there should be. As the road got rougher I had to slow down and fall back behind the tank. We followed the tank for a good three or five miles, and I had to engage four wheel drive once the trail got sandy, but our kick ass van never gave up traction, and we just drove after the tank at 35 to 45 mph. Mr Moody was foaming at the mouth and spewing out all sorts of cuss words, some of which I had never heard before. Definitely some old Vietnam shit. He was yelling how he would crush the driver, chop his balls and mail it to his mom, and worse.

Eventually the Bradley got to where it was going, a huge assembly area where an armored unit was congregating. As the vehicle stopped I pulled along its side. Before I came to a complete halt the old man jumped out and double timed to the armored vehicle’s rear and started banging as hard as he could on the rear hatch. Soon a Specialist (an E4, just two grades above me and several grades below Mr Moody) opened the hatch, and Mr Moody proceeded to grab him by the collar of his shirt, and pull him outside and started delivering the most damning, scathing ass chewing the old veteran could muster. The Specialist promptly saw the rank on his collar and snapped up to parade rest (the wrong position to assume when getting your ass chewed by an officer, by the way) as he received the rough end of what was probably the worst attitude readjustment he ever received in his career. A Sergeant who was inside the vehicle soon poked his head out the rear hatch, saw what was happening, jumped out, and went to parade rest beside the Specialist. Being a private I just stayed inside the vehicle, watching it from a distance, while still being able to hear Mr Moody’s loud, thunderous voice among the din of armored vehicle engines around us. Mr Moody would yell at them a few inches from their face, Full-Metal-Jacket-Drill-Instructor style, and specks of senior Chief Warrant Officer spit were most surely landing on both the Sergeant’s and Specialists’s faces, but they never flinched.

A minute or two into the ass chewing a higher ranking soldier arrived from a different direction, who I later learned was the boss of the guys inside the vehicle. The Sergeant First Class also stood at parade rest, and although he didn’t receive the spit from Mr Moody’s mouth he did listen to the ass chewing attentively. Soon Mr Moody had calmed down a bit, and with the Sergeant and Specialist just standing there waiting, Mr Moody and the boss just talked. After a few minutes Mr Moody came back into the van, carrying a piece of paper with the soldiers’ commander’s phone number. He ordered me to drive to our earlier destination, our unit headquarters, whence he would call the commander and tell him his soldiers were driving an armored vehicle without following proper safety guidelines and that they had almost killed him and his driver. I had no doubt that those guys would most likely be in deep trouble for that and would most likely lose rank and do some extra duty time over their high speed run.

After dropping off Mr Moody, now coated in a fine layer of fine sandy dust, at our headquarters I drove back to the hangar, going by the same intersection where we had almost been flattened by a tank. When I got there my boss asked me why had it taken so long to drive Mr Moody to HQ and come back. I told him of my hot pursuit of an armored vehicle with Mr Moody ordering me to do so, and he didn’t believe it at first, thinking I was out fucking off during duty hours, but he would verify with the warrant officer. I never heard back from him otherwise…