LYNDEN - People can see the interior of a recent-vintage U.S. Army tank tonight and Saturday night, Aug. 8 and 9, at Lynden Pioneer Museum, before Army staff arrive next week to weld shut the last open hatch on the massive piece of fighting equipment.
The museum recently won Army permission to showcase the M60A3 main battle tank. The tank was moved to a parking lot behind the museum at 217 Front St. on July 31, but Army regulations say openings to the interior must be sealed.
From 4 to 9 p.m. tonight and Saturday, volunteers will be on hand to discuss the tank's history and features and to help people see the inside.
Seven years ago, the museum decided to update its collection of military artifacts. Working in conjunction with a local nonprofit, the Military Historical Association, the museum learned that two of the tanks were sitting idle at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Fort Lewis.
The model, an updated version of the M60 tanks that first entered Army service in 1960, saw action from 1978 until was it was phased out in the late '90s. After several years of paperwork, negotiations and background checks, the museum won the OK to put the tank on display.
"Technically, the tank is on loan from the U.S. military," said museum director Troy Luginbill.
Even if someone sneaked inside, they couldn't do much harm. The tank's engine and transmission have been removed and its cannon is plugged on both ends.
After the last hatch is sealed, the museum wants to repaint the tank and acquire some of its exterior hardware. In time, the tank, a five-ton military truck also in the museum's possession, and possibly other equipment will form the basis of an outdoor exhibit of military equipment, Luginbill said.
Matthew Aamot, a Custer veteran drove a tank while in the Army from 1994 to 1998, said people are welcome to look at the tank anytime, but are cautioned to not climb on it without supervision.
A member of the USA Brotherhood of Tankers, Aamot said he's glad the Army let the museum provide a home for the tank.
"They just don't hand it out like candy," he said.