Loader on a Leopard battle tank

Loader on a Leopard battle tank

Reading time:

Lance Corporal Britta Frey is a loader on a Leopard 2A6 battle tank and works side by side with three men. Her responsibilities in this crew of four include loading the Leopard’s smoothbore gun. This weapon allows the tank to effectively engage targets out to 5,000 metres.

A soldier stands in the turret of a tank as she loads its smoothbore gun with ammunition.

As a loader on a Leopard 2A6 battle tank, Lance Corporal Britta Frey loads the 120 mm L55 smoothbore gun and the coaxial machine gun of the tank and operates its radio equipment.

Bundeswehr/Carl Schulze

“As a loader, I am responsible for loading the gun with 120 mm ammunition and the machine gun with 7.62 mm ammunition. I also operate the antiaircraft machine gun should the need arise”, says 24-year-old Lance Corporal Britta Frey, describing her tasks in the tank crew. She adds: “I am also in charge of the radio equipment.” The young woman from Hanover serves with 4 Company, 93 Tank Demonstration Battalion in Munster. “As a crew, we follow our commander’s orders and aim to successfully accomplish the tasks assigned to our battle tank.”

“As a general rule, every member of the junior ranks can become a loader. They should, however, be able to load 23-kilogram shells into the 120 mm smoothbore gun.” She adds that they should also be able to work together in cramped quarters with three other soldiers for an extended period of time. “It is a question of attitude in my opinion. I like the odd two-week stretches on the battle tank.”

An impressive working space

A battle tank fires in the field. A fireball appears at the muzzle of the gun.

During a live-firing exercise, a Leopard battle tank engages a target. Lance Corporal Britta Frey serves as a loader on this tank.

Bundeswehr/Carl Schulze

After completing secondary school, Britta Frey joined the Bundeswehr as a military service volunteer in August 2016. After her basic training with the training support company of 212 Armoured Infantry Battalion in Augustdorf, she was employed as a staff clerk with the headquarters and signal company of 9 Armour Demonstration Brigade in Munster. “With this company, I took part in the exercise Heidesturm 2017, among other things. But I soon realised that I had hoped my time with the Bundeswehr would be somewhat different. I therefore decided to become a temporary-career volunteer and change to the armoured forces. In January 2018, I started serving with 4 Company, 93 Tank Demonstration Battalion in Muster. I completed the training for battle tank driver and obtained a Class F driving licence (for tracked vehicles) and completed training for gunners and loaders of the Leopard 2A6 battle tank. I am currently a loader on the platoon’s third tank. For me, the battle tank with all its capabilities is a unique and impressive workplace.”

A soldier at the loader’s hatch of a battle tank. She is operating a machine gun.

In combat, the duties of the loader of a Leopard 2A6 battle tank include not only loading the 120 mm L55 smoothbore gun but also operating the antiaircraft machine gun at the loader’s hatch in the turret.

Bundeswehr/Carl Schulze

Asked why she decided to serve in the Bundeswehr in the first place, Frey gives the following answer: “I have been interested in the Bundeswehr ever since I was small. Maybe because my father was an officer and I found his stories about military service exciting. I also wanted a job that would challenge me both mentally and physically. This made the Bundeswehr a good choice in my view. Few employers can offer jobs that are as diverse and varied as those of the Bundeswehr. It is never boring because no two days are alike. You also have a lot to do with a wide variety of people, and soon you value these people as fellow soldiers.”

“Practical experience is worth its weight in gold”

A soldier crossing a storage park. She is carrying three bases from spent shells.

After a firing exercise, Lance Corporal Britta Frey carries the bases of spent 120 mm ammunition to a collection site. The ammunition case burns almost completely when fired, and only the base is left.

Bundeswehr/Carl Schulze

In the near future, Lance Corporal Frey, who spends her leisure time riding horses and motorcycles, will follow in her father’s footsteps: “I have requested a career change and would like to become an officer. I already underwent and passed the selection procedure for officers in 2015. Back then, however, I decided to serve as a volunteer for the time being. The years of service as a junior rank soldier made me realise that I want to achieve more. Today I am sure that I have found my dream job and that I would like to rise up and move forward. Once I have completed a university degree, I hope to become a career soldier. I think the experience I have gained these past years will be worth its weight in gold when it comes to this goal. I will definitely be able to draw upon a wealth of knowledge and skills from this time.”

Portrait of a soldier. She is wearing the signature black beret of the armoured forces of the Bundeswehr.

In early 2021, Lance Corporal Britta Frey will be employed in Lithuania as part of the mission Enhanced Forward Presence.

Bundeswehr/Carl Schulze

First, however, Lance Corporal Britta Frey will be taking part in a mission abroad. From early 2021, she and fellow soldiers from her company in 93 Tank Demonstration Battalion will be providing part of the multinational German-led Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) battle group in Lithuania for half a year. “What I find particularly appealing about the mission in Lithuania is its multinational character and the opportunity it gives me to work together with soldiers from other nations. I am also looking forward to taking part in the scheduled large-scale exercises and to armoured training in a multinational environment.”

by Carl Schulze