Colonel Tanner entered the Army in 1955 as a Second Lieutenant upon graduation from Mercer University, Georgia. Following early assignments with the Infantry and training in parachute pack maintenance and aerial delivery, Colonel Tanner began a career-long association with airborne units. He served as Commander of the 549th Quartermaster Company (Air Supply), Commander, 407th Supply and Service Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, and in 1970, served as the Senior Quartermaster Advisor, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Area Logistics Command, Saigon, Vietnam. In 1972, he served as the Division Supply Officer, Division Support Command, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina and in 1979, Colonel Tanner commanded the Army Air Force Exchange Service in Korea.
His key staff positions include Logistics Staff Officer, Department of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics, the Pentagon, Alexandria, Virginia in 1976, Chief, Logistics Simulation & Analysis Division (J4), US Readiness Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida in 1981, and Chief, Logistics Operations Division (J4), US Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida in 1986. Following his retirement, Colonel Tanner worked to remove ordnance in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.