Marine, Army engineers' efforts help build 'Joint' camp

15 Dec 2003 | Staff Sgt. April D. Tuggle

Marine and Army engineer units of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa flexed their joint muscles to complete a construction and refurbishment project on the new command operations center in Building 111 opened here yesterday.

Marines of Combat Engineer Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), and soldiers of the Army's Detachment 2, 463rd Engineer Battalion, a reserve unit out of Wheeling, W.Va., combined their skills and manpower to complete the project on time.

The building was included in a multi-building renovation contract originally begun by a local Djiboutian contractor earlier this year.  Work outside the scope of the contract was identified in Building 111 once the project started so additional manpower was required to complete the project on time, according to Gunnery Sgt. Terry Meehan, Facilities Chief, Public Works Office, Camp Lemonier.

Engineers of the 463rd were already at work on the building when BLT 1/1 Engineers arrived at Camp Lemonier in November looking for work to do in between live-fire range training conducted by the BLT at ranges in the region.

"We asked to help with any work they had.  We're division Marines so we're always on the ranges supporting the BLT.  This was a good opportunity to do something different," said Marine Sgt. Joshua M. Buck, platoon guide, CEB plt., BLT 1/1.

Marine combat engineers focus on mine clearing and demolition when in support of infantry units, according to Buck.  Having an opportunity to build something rather than blow it up provided a change of pace and the chance to develop more traditional construction skills not commonly used by Marine combat engineers.

"We did framework and vertical construction that I've never done before," said Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew S. Littlefield, combat engineer.  "I did some odd jobs around the house and basic construction work before I joined.  I've installed windows and doors, but never had the chance to start from scratch and make the rough cut for them."

The engineers also wired interior lights, installed a drop ceiling, and poured concrete for slabs to hold the AC units for the building, according to Buck.

"The Army engineers are reservists and a lot of them have a lot of knowledge because they work construction on the civilian side," said Buck.  "We're opposite ends of the spectrum of engineering.  They shared a lot of knowledge, and they were really interested in what we do with demo too, because they don't get to do that kind of thing usually."

The combination of forces has also benefited the camp overall for projects beyond Building 111, said Meehan.  Having the additional manpower provides an opportunity for some of the lower priority work requests to get done because the Marines are available to do the work as soon as a request comes in.  For example, concrete slabs to expand the patios of the Cantina have also been completed by the joint forces.

"They're kind of the force-in-readiness for engineering tasks at the camp," said Meehan, noting the connection between a MEU's overall mission of being the tip of the spear, available to react quickly when forces are needed.

"It was good to be able to work with a different branch of service, see how they work," said Army Staff Sgt. Brian Zimmerman, project foreman, Det. 2, 463rd Engineers.

It was a morale boost to work with and learn from the Army engineers, said Littlefield. 

"Working with them gave me incentive for my next assignment maybe to go to the FSSG where they do this kind of work," said Littlefield.

13th MEU Marines ashore in Djibouti will conduct training through December and return to their ships to continue their scheduled deployment, currently expected to return to Camp Pendleton in late spring 2004.

For additional information about the 13th MEU (SOC), view the official website at www.13meu.usmc.mil.

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit