7/18/2013 -- CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The steady hum of a helicopter grew louder as it approached the harbor. A heavy payload underneath weighed the helicopter down until it dropped the steel structure into the blue Pacific water. Immediately, the Marines went into action.
Marines with Bridge Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted improved ribbon bridge training aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 16, 2013.
During the exercise, five IRBs were transported and delivered by a CH-53E Sea Stallion and dropped into Oceanside Harbor. Being one of only two bridge companies in the Marine Corps, it was the first time for the West Coast battalion to have the IRB deployed in this manner.
“The purpose of today’s training is to show the capabilities of air operations in conjunction with the bridge platoon itself and its capabilities for the MLG,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy J. Liners, Bridge Co. gunnery sergeant, 7th ESB, 1st MLG. “The setup within the basin area was pretty swift. I can definitely say that this platoon has worked hard to lead up to this moment.”
The IRB is a transportable and floating bridge that is easily deployable on any calm body of water. It can be used as a ferry to transport military equipment and vehicles across water or act as a bridge between land to continuously transport Marine forces, which can aid in anything from combat missions to humanitarian operations.
“These bridges are easily deployable in water to support the mobility of other units,” said Cpl. Alexander D. Krieger, a combat engineer with Bridge Co., 7th ESB, 1st MLG. “We can ferry tanks or whatever you want, or even make bridges to span rivers.”
Using Bridge Erection Boats, a small twin-jet aluminum vessel that can push the bridges, ropes and a few tools, the Marines were able to deploy, move and assemble the bridges into a five-piece IRB raft that includes three interior pieces and two ramps on the ends.
This was the first experience with the IRB for many of the Marines. It allowed cross-training between the different occupational specialties within the company.
“The training today was a really good time,” said Cpl. Alexander C. Alberter, a combat engineer with Bridge Co., 7th ESB, 1st MLG. “I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot and it was something I’ve never done before.”
After the five-piece bridge was finished, the Marines maneuvered the bridge to the shore in order to test its integrity. Tactical vehicles were driven on the bridge and shuttled into the bay in order to demonstrate its capabilities. After the Marines could see the structure was sound, the disassembling process began.
As the sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean, the Marines finished their training. For the first time off the west coast, an IRB raft was constructed via helicopter insertion and a new set of Marines were trained to become the Marine Corps' next bridge team.