LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. - As Marines woke up to mist on their tents and fog on the lake, members of the Lake Elsinore community set up their chairs to observe the bridging missions the Marines would undertake over the course of the day.
Nearly 100 Marines with Bridge Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group showed off their versatility by conducting a combined water and land bridging operation as part of a readiness evaluation at Lake Elsinore, Calif., March 24, 2015, marking the first time that an Improved Ribbon Bridge was built as a continuous span across a wet gap since 2002.
"Three generations of Marines have gone through without this continuous span from shore to shore," said Cpl. Kris Wickert, bridge master for operations platoon, Bridge Company. "It shows that we can span any wet or dry gap in the world in a moment's notice."
Marines built an improved ribbon bridge crossing more than 400 feet across a channel of the lake using bridge erection boats to move, what look like, pieces of a puzzle.
Upon completion, Marines drove vehicles and equipment across the IRB to assemble the medium girder bridge over a 53-foot dry gap on the adjacent shoreline. Here the Marines didn't receive help from boats, but instead had to work together to manually lift hundreds of pounds of steel.
The month of training leading up to this exercise gave the Marines the skills necessary to finish the bridges that were each completed in about 3 hours. Each bridge is designed to take crossings from vehicles and cargo up to 140,000 lbs. The mission served as a good baseline for the Company's ability to bridge a water and land gap if it were deployed. Lake Elsinore offered the only geographic location within 250 miles of Camp Pendleton with a site capable of conducting both types of bridges at the same time.
"This was the first time I've done it and I was impressed with how quickly and flawlessly we executed the plan," said Wickert. Bridge building provides Marines more versatile ways to overcome and adapt to obstacles they may face on the battlefield or during humanitarian missions where we may need to respond rapidly, said Cpl. Clint J. Dean, team leader for operations platoon, 7th ESB.
According to the Marines, the support from the city of Lake Elsinore in providing this training site was critical for the Marines to be able to train in dynamic scenarios that aren't always available to them organically.
"We train like we fight so just because we would no longer be in Southern California doesn't mean the [1st Marine Expeditionary Force] wouldn't come across a set of wet or dry gaps," said Capt. Andrew M. Hicks, company commander for Bridge Company, 7th ESB. "Should this be the case the Marines of Bridge Company, 7th ESB are trained in the aspects of bridging and are ready to provide mobility support to the MEF."