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thedrifter
08-18-06, 07:55 PM
Push to Excel

By Couser, Robert A

Combat preparations of Company B, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion

At the time of this writing the Marines of Company B, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (1st CEB) are deployed in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 05-07.1. During the months prior to deployment, the Marines of the company made great strides in their preparations for combat and for ensuring the most effective combat engineer support possible. The highlights below illustrate some key aspects of their training, above and beyond that which has normally been available in the past, as the Marines pushed to the extreme in their preparations.

Emergency destruction of captured enemy ammunition. While all of our Marines get basic improvised explosive device (IED) training, recently, the addition of the emergency destruction of captured enemy ammunition (CEA) class, taught as part of the Combat Engineer Officer Course at Marine Corps Engineer School, Camp Lejeune, has helped bridge the combat engineer-explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) gap. Select Marines of Company B, 1st CEB had the opportunity to attend this course and cover newly developed tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) for destruction of CEA and an orientation to ORDATA II software.1 The course included a practical application evaluation (nonlive fire) and an examination based on the positive identification of ordnance with the use of ORDATA H. The introduction to the ORDATA II software combined with the CEA classes and the practical application portion provide extremely valuable knowledge to the typical combat engineer officer. Continued improvements to this course and the availability of training assets at the battalion level will continue to reinforce this required skill set.

Foreign weapons course. Select Marines from Company B, 1st CEB, attended foreign weapons training from 9 to 14 January 2005 at the Gunsite Academy near Paulden, AZ. During the conduct of this course the Marines received indepth instruction on weapons likely to be encountered in theater. The week at the academy was spent primarily at the firing range with approximately 15 percent of the time in the classroom. Various weapons systems were presented for the students including the RPD and RPK (Soviet light machineguns), PKM (Soviet/ Russian general purpose machinegun), AK-47SU, AK-74SU, Makarov pistol, Dragunov clone, Clock 17 pistol, and the AK-47 semiautomatic. The majority of the week was spent manipulating and firing the Clock 17 and the AK-47 semiautomatic. Every day various drills were performed with these two weapons. This training left the Marines confident that they obtained the necessary skills to teach Marines as well as Iraqi Security Forces how to use and employ the Clock 17 and AK-47 and provide introductory classes on the remaining weapons systems.

Route clearance course. Pursuing an opportunity to increase route clearance capabilities and proficiency in theater necessitates the requirement for effective deliberate training, evaluation, and analysis in predeployment training for Marines before they first see this capability in combat. In preparation for deployment to Iraq, select combat engineers were sent to the Route Reconnaissance/ Clearance Operations Course at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, from 7 to 17 February 2006. The focus of this course was to learn how to operate and employ route clearance equipment, specifically the Buffalo, RG- 31, Husky, and Meerkat. During the first week of training the Marines received invaluable wisdom and instruction on these assets, particularly in the area of preventive maintenance and vehicle operations. The second week of training focused on finding IEDs, what to look for in searching for IEDs, common standing operating procedures, and the setup and responsibilities of every Marine in the respective vehicles.

Robotics usage and integration course. Recently, as part of this effort to expand the role of robots for use in the combat engineer community, select combat engineers had the opportunity to attend the Robotics Usage and Integration Course held at the Northern Training Area, Fort Irwin, CA. This course is a 1-day lecture, 3-day practical application period of instruction given by rapid equipping force instructors who are contracted by the U.S. military and other Department of Defense organizations. The course criteria mainly focused on three types of remotecontrolled robots (MARCBot IV, PackBot family, and Dragon Runner) that are being used by American forces in conflicts throughout the world.

Issues Remain-More To Come

No matter how much training Company B received, its combat preparations served to highlight the fact that there still are areas that remain vital to the combat engineers' success and those that continue to be debated for the benefit of the division and the Marine air-ground task force as a whole.

Combat engineer squad leader. The combat engineer squad leader has always been and continues to be a valuable asset to the infantry company commander. It is imperative for the infantry/maneuver unit company commander to consult with the combat engineer squad leader as to what mobility, counter-mobility, and survivability missions the combat engineer squad is capable of performing. A priority of engineering effort at the company level will enable that squad leader to employ his squad most effectively.

IED recognition/destruction. This issue is, and will continue to be, a critical one for all deployed Marines. The proven track record of the EOD and combat engineer team cannot be understated in its levels of success. While it is clear that upon IED identification the established TTP is to request EOD support for technical exploitation and destruction, the primary role of the division combat engineer still remains mobility support. The combat reality is that combat engineers must be able to destroy IEDs and have the ability to know when the mission is beyond their capabilities. The commander on the scene must have the flexibility and versatility to make this decision as the situation dictates.

Command relationships. This subject continues to be debated in the rear as well as in theater. While the "attached" relationship has been the predominant one for deploying combat engineer platoons, the key in many cases turns out to be personality dependent as much as mission dependent. It should not be thought of as a foregone conclusion. Proper communications, mission planning, asset availability, feasibility of support, etc. will ensure that the debate continues. There will be situations when reorganization and massing of the combat engineer effort in a general support role is necessary and times when it is not. The bottom line, as always, is the clear determination of what is best for the overall division to ensure its continued success.

During the months prior to deployment, the Marines of the company made great strides in their preparations for combat and for ensuring the most effective combat engineer support possible.

. . . combat engineers were sent to the Route Reconnaissance/ Clearance Operations Course at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. . . .

The combat reality is that combat engineers must be able to destroy IEDs and have the ability to know when the mission is beyond their capabilities.

Note

1. ORDATA II is an ordnance database whose information comes from the EOD publication system database maintained by the Naval EOD Technology Division, Indian Head, MD.

by LtCol Robert A. Couser

* LtCol Causer is the CO, 1st CEB.

Copyright Marine Corps Association Aug 2006

Ellie