MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The seasoned Marines of yesteryear celebrated 1st Tank Battalion’s 63rd birthday with today’s generation of warriors at a windblown ceremony Monday.
“The 1st Tank Battalion was activated on 01 November, 1941 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina,” read parade narrator Staff Sgt Horace Miller, battalion wire chief.
The battalion participated in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and currently has Marines forward deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.
To honor the battalion and remember those who served before them, the battalion colors were rededicated at the birthday celebration.
The unit’s 14 battle streamers, four Silver Stars and nine Bronze Stars were ceremoniously reattached to the battalion colors as guests were reminded of their significance.
Lieutenant Colonel Gene Berbaum, (ret.) joked with the new generation of tankers as he addressed the battalion.
“Remember, Sailors and Marines, one day you’ll be sitting in the chair at ceremonies like this,” said Berbaum, president, Marine Corps Tankers Association. “I represent 1,100 ‘Treadheads’ that went before you. We want you to know we understand what you and your families are going through, and we’re damn proud of all of you.”
The Marine Corps Tankers Association presents Tankers of the Year an honorary membership in the association and a commemorative plaque.
The battalion chose five Marines as their Tankers of the Year. Headquarters and Service Company’s Cpl. Matthew W. Geiger, Co. A’s Cpl. Justin B. May, Bravo Co.’s Cpl. Robert A. Sutton and Co. D.’s Cpl. Kenneth L. Ajitsingh.
Charlie Co.’s Tanker of the Year, Sgt. Benjamin K. Smith, was killed in combat in September.
The Marines were chosen for their exceptional leadership skills, tactical and technical proficiency and overall contribution to the battalion and the arms community.
Because operational commitments, Ajitsingh and Geiger were the only two recipients available for the presentation.
The nominees hail from all across the nation. Gieger is from Keansburg, N.J., May is from Pavillion, WY., Sutton is from Northridge, Calif., Ajitsingh is from Glen Burnie, MD., and Smith called Williamson, Il., home.
Each nominee will receive a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
As is tradition at all Marine Corps birthday celebrations, the ceremony included a birthday cake. The battalion commander, Lt. Col Aaron T. Slaughter presented the first piece of cake to Berbaum.
The longest serving member of the battalion, Staff Sgt. Mark Miller, Headquarters and Service Co., S-3, received the second piece of cake.
Miller, a Farmington, N.M., native, joined the battalion in May 1996.
“I love it here, and so does my family,” said Miller, who has had seven commanding officers during his time with the battalion.
The newest member of the battalion, Private Adam L. Scarmardo, joined the ranks Oct. 25.
Before the ceremony ended, Slaughter addressed his men.
“I love all of you,” he said to the men formed up in front of him. “This isn’t just about what we’ve done; it’s about what the Marines who went before you did, about the Marines sitting here today, and about what we will continue to do.”
As Marine Corps Band Twentynine Palms played the 1st Marine Division’s anthem, Waltzing Matilda, veterans of battles past and present were invited to stand and be recognized, and all others were asked to remain seated in honor of those present, and those who gave their lives serving with the battalion.