An army tank commander leads a crew of soldiers to operate a tank on the battlefield.
Army Tank Commanders belong to the Royal Armoured Corp. The Royal Armoured Corp is the modern day version of the cavalry who would have ridden into battle on horseback. Tank commanders can work in one of three roles: Armoured, Reconnaissance and CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear).
Armoured regiments are responsible for what the British Army call ‘Shock Attack’ on the battlefield. Equipped with Challenger 2 or Main Battle Tanks, these regiments deliver firepower whenever required.
Reconnaissance regiments are required to gather critical information from anywhere on the battlefield. It is essential that they see everything that goes on without being seen by the enemy.
CBRN regiments are responsible for detecting hazardous materials and are crucial in protecting the force.
Tank commanders are required to use their leadership skills to guide tank crewmen to operate their tanks in fulfilling whatever role is required by their regiment. Tank Commanders are in charge of making sure that the tank functions as efficiently as possible and that the job is carried out quickly. Specific requirements depend on the regiment but tank commanders are expected to use their initiative on the battlefield to command their team effectively.
A tank commander is considered as a corporal rank and is paid accordingly. A tank commander’s salary starts at £26,404. There are 7 pay levels for a tank commander and these are split into higher and lower spines. A tank commander can earn up to £32,182 per year at the most senior level.
A tank commander’s overall responsibility is in guiding his crewmen to operate the tank under his control, whether that be driving, operating weaponry or overseeing directions. The specific duties depend on the regiment. Generic duties include:
- using initiative to make quick decisions
- commanding firepower
- directing each person in the crew on their job
- ensuring the smooth running of the tank operations
- being the point of reporting for information collected by crewmen
- feeding down orders from unit commander to crewmen
- overseeing the recording of all data
- deciding what information needs to be fed to whom, and making sure it is done.
No formal qualifications are needed to be a tank commander, as with most roles within the army, but training and experience are vital in gaining the position.
SkillsWorking as a tank commander in the army takes a certain type of person. In order to proceed up the ranks from trooper to commander, it takes more than just correct training and dedication – a Tank Commander must:
- possess excellent leadership skills
- understand the importance of teamwork within his crew and be able ensure everyone is working together
- have an interest in high technology communication systems and be keen and quick to learn how they work
- possess exceptional organisational skills in order to manage the situation at hand in a calm manner
- be able to use their initiative to make decisions on the spot
- have the ability to understand instructions given by unit commander and follow them carefully
- be an authority figure that can direct people and give commands
- be hands on and enjoy the task of repairing machinery
- be prepared to work in a highly critical environment, often running on adrenaline
- be able to stay calm in highly pressurised situations
- enjoy driving
Tank commanders mostly work inside tanks which are worth around £3 million. They are in charge of a team of 4 crewmen, and are responsible for commanding the functioning of the tank. Tank commanders will work in a variety of environments depending on where they are based.
When not on duty or training, they work in military bases performing administrative duties at a desk or carrying out maintenance on their vehicle. At these times, they work regular office hours.
As tank commanders have to be ready for battle at all times, they must train with their crew regularly. On these training exercises, tank commanders work in simulated combat conditions and will be restricted to working solely in tanks but will eat and sleep in tents. When on duty, working conditions are similar to simulated battle, but weather can vary from desert terrain to arctic conditions, depending on the conflict zone. When in training or in conflict zones, tank commanders can be on duty for up to 24 hours a day if necessary.
Working conditions inside a tank are very cramped. The light emitted is red light, so as not to ruin night vision for those inside the tank. This can be damaging to the eyes if exposed to it for too long.
Being a tank commander is a dangerous job especially when they are deployed in conflict zones. Tanks are responsible for producing the heavy machinery firepower for battle, often placing tank commanders on the frontline of conflict. This obviously brings an extremely high risk of serious injury or death.
A tank commander needs previous military experience. In order to become a tank commander, troopers progress through the ranks from trooper to lance corporal, to corporal (Tank Commander). This means that a tank commander must have previous experience in combat and military training.
Training and conflict are not enough however – a tank commander must have experience in operating heavy machinery, driving large and small vehicles and knowledge of how to repair them. Tank commanders must also be able to show experience in management and communication, as well as leading teams.
A tank commander is an experienced tank crewman so training within this role focuses more on improving leadership and authoritative skills. The training will teach a tank commander to lead soldiers into battle, how to make decisions, dealing with responsibility for your vehicle and crew, and how to care for the welfare of your crew. Tank commanders can work to achieve an NVQ Level 3 in Engineering as well as Chartered Management Institute Level 3 in Leadership and Management. All these things combined lead to a tank commander moving up the ranks to be a unit leader (sergeant rank). This is the next step in progression, but this comes with experience and training.
Steve Melia is a 42 year old tank commander from Yorkshire. Here’s what he has to say about the job:
Steve, How long have you been in the Army?
I’ve been in the Army for about 25 years now.
Why did you choose to go into the army?
Well basically, I joined the Army because there were no other jobs available at the time in my area. It was a bad turn for the economy and I didn’t want to go on the dole so I decided I’d sign up.
Why as a tank commander?
Of all the jobs I’d heard of in the army, I thought it sounded kind of glamorous! It was a local regiment which meant all the guys in it came from the same area. Two guys from my school joined the same regiment at the same time so it meant I wasn’t on my own.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Well, there are no ‘typical’ days in the Army – that’s what makes it so good. If I was at the Tank Park, I would carry out maintenance and vehicle checks or I could be doing sports or training. If I’m in a combat zone, it’s a whole different ball game as we’re generally out there to fight or keep the peace.
What do you like about the job?
There’s so much variety and you get the chance to do and see things you would never have the chance to in a normal office job. I’ve been climbing, skiing and travelling all over the world. Most people can’t say they’ve had the chance to do that and get paid for it!
What do you dislike about the job or find particularly challenging?
I can’t really say I dislike anything! Everything changes so fast that a really bad day could be followed by a really good day so you don’t have time for it to get you down. I might go on an exercise living in a forest in Germany, and it’s really hard work and it’s bad weather, and then afterwards I get to go on a two week snowboarding holiday! The thing I find the most challenging is being away on tours in places like Iraq and Bosnia. I’ve been away for some really long periods of time and I really missed my home and family.
What are the general working conditions like?
Generally, working conditions are good. You get everything given to you that you will need to do your job and to live a sustainable life. Contrary to what people might think, dangers are not the ‘norm'. Yes, you will go to places that are dangerous but everything is made as safe as it can be. The hours change again depending on what you are doing at the time; on exercise or tour you will be working 12 - 14 hours a day, in camp you may only work 3 days a week!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing this job?
Go for it! Even if you join and don’t like it at first, give it a chance because there’s just so many opportunities and ways you can progress. It takes time for some people to settle in but after a few months, it’s like living and working with your best friends.