MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Like children on a playground, it can be inspiring to see two individuals working together to play with dirt and build something. Even more like children on a playground, those same individuals may collectively destroy what they have built.
On Feb. 8, Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines’ Combat Engineers platoon and Amphibious Assault Vehicles section came together as one working element to build something … and destroy it.
Beginning with a bunker building exercise, the Engineers from 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Combat Engineers Battalion, moved personnel and materials onto a range here and constructed a standard modular-type bunker, filling barrier cells with dirt and capping it off with a massive wooden roof fortified with sand bags. The practice of actually constructing a bunker in a training environment, said one Marine, required teamwork built on months of pre-deployment work-ups.
“This is something we’ll do everyday if we go to Iraq,” said Cpl. Matt Pagano, a team leader with Engineers Platoon, “so everyone is beginning to trust our NCOs and we’re building a lot of cohesion and getting this done.”
Pagano also noted that while careful practice was being placed into building the bunker, a diabolical plan to destroy it was also in place.
“We’re going to build this thing, and when we’re done we’re going to shoot machine guns and rockets at it, and blow a line charge.”
The line charge Pagano casually mentioned was in fact the beastly 1,750 pound M152 Mine-Clearing Linear Demolitions Charge. This is where AAV support came in.
Due to the extremely large nature of the charge, coupled with the fact the demolitions are carried by a rocket, the most practical way to maneuver and fire the charge is from a trailer towed by an AAV.
“We’re here to support the Engineers,” said Staff Sgt. Fausto Cabrera, section leader, BLT 3/1 AAVs platoon, “this is their show. But while we’re here, meeting these Marines, it will make it easier to work with (Engineers) in the future because we’ll already know everyone.”
Even though this was the first evolution during the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s training cycle that AAVs have directly supported Engineers platoon, Cabrera said it was a smooth operation.
“This has been really easy to follow with the Engineers because of good communication.”
Once the mighty charge had blown, the Engineers paid off AAVs Marines by shelling out some M2 .50 Cal Medium Machine Gun ammunition. The units then took their places atop a hill nearly 650 meters away and pumped round after round of automatic payload into the bunker, producing nary a scratch.
“This is confidence training, too,” quipped Pagano. “It should make everyone feel pretty comfortable about sitting in one of these (bunkers).”
The Engineers were also prepped to fire Anti-Tank and Shoulder Fired Rockets at the bunker, but, due to daylight constraints and range protocol, had to shelve the fun for another day.
With units like Combat Engineers Platoon and Amphibious Assault Vehicles platoon working together successfully, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit is proving more capable than ever to serve the Western Pacific region this spring as a “911 Force in Readiness.”
For more information about the warriors of Combat Engineers Platoon, AAV platoon or the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.