At annual training in 1978 and 1979, the First City Troop was evaluated by active duty soldiers from the 82nd Airborne.
When these grizzled airborne fighters noticed tank crews dismounting at happy hour to crack open beers and eat pickled herring and smoked oysters, they thought the Troop was a joke.
But they were soon fascinated when they noticed the unit's overall cohesion and its ability to form eccentric synergies at the tank-crew level.
These synergies arose because many of the tank crews were composed of men who had been in other branches of service before joining the National Guard. With such a skill-set hodgepodge, stark weaknesses often cropped up, but so did surprising strengths.
For example, at tank ranges, gunners with Navy experience tended to do well because, as Roy West (a former U.S. Navy officer) explained, “Shooting 40-millimeter Bofors cannon and five-inch naval guns at sea made operating tank guns easy.”
Also, in contrast their active-duty counterparts, First Troop tank crews typically stayed together for four or five years at a stretch, which gave them lots of time to learn each other’s quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, and to operate as one.
This sort of co-dependence surely reached a high water mark when a tank crew formed in which both the gunner and tank commander were equally dyslexic. They were bright guys, but both had a comic tendency to confuse right from left. One year a range officer sitting in the tank with them during a training exercise was mystified when he heard the commander clearly tell his gunner to swing the turret to the left, when he obviously intended the turret to swing right. The gunner obeyed, swinging it to the right, thinking it was left.