BRIDGEPORT, Calif. - Marines with engineer platoon, Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted a series of security patrols during Mountain exercise 6-15 at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., Oct. 25-26, 2015. The patrols were intended to maintain the security of the command center located at the lower base camp, as well improve useful avenues of movement up the mountain.
CLB-11 is taking part in their final exercise for MTX and has been pushing out their support and assets to units across the area of operations. CLB-11 has been in Bridgeport since the beginning of October, supporting 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment with all things logistics; food, water, transportation and engineering are just some of the things CLB has been providing.
As part of the FEX, engineer platoon was tasked with clearing a nearby trail. Nearly three and a half miles of unforgiving terrain and periodic enemy activity made the job difficult for the Marines, but not impossible.
“First and foremost our goal throughout the patrol is to clear this trail with known IEDs and enemy activity,” explained 1st Lt. Tyler Sweet, combat engineer officer and platoon commander. “Also we’re here to provide route reconnaissance for our intelligence guys and open up freedom of movement on the trail for the local populace.”
As they pushed into the mountain and cleared these obstructions they were confronted by role playing instructors and Marines who challenged the patrol at various times with notional improvised explosive devices and indirect fire to see how they would react given certain scenarios.
The patrols serve a dual purpose of training the Marines in something new as well contributing to the flow of operations for the overall training exercise.
“Given that there is an enemy threat out here the patrols establish a defense in depth for the base camp,” said Sweet. “Us patrolling out here allows us to engage the enemy before they get to the base camp and acts a deterrent by letting our presence be known out here.”
Gunnery Sgt. Edward Sheckleford, platoon sergeant for the engineers, attested to the value of scenario based training and what it can teach his Marines.
“This kind of training improves our Marines a lot,” said Sheckleford. “Every Marine should know how to patrol, every Marine should be able to employ their weapon so getting them out there patrolling improves that basic Marine rifleman concept.”
Having no attached explosive ordnance disposal Marines, the platoon had to mark IEDs and move around them so EOD could disarm any potential bombs later. So the Marines pushed on to the end of the patrol, checking every nook and cranny for threats.
Cpl. Ben Hernandez is one of the Marines attached to engineer platoon that isn’t an engineer by trade. A water purification specialist, Hernandez could see the platoon coming together to function optimally.
“We’re not all experts at this, it’s not what we do every day,” said Hernandez. “It started out a bit shaky but now we’re getting our groove and we know what to do.”
Reaching the end of the trail they needed to remove a large tree from the road to reopen movement for the local populace and livestock to move through the mountain. After some time chopping with sharp axes the job was done and the Marines just had to maintain security and hike back to base camp.
On the second day the platoon had a similar goal out on the trail but this time they had a bigger challenge when they got back.
As the patrol approached the entry control point they were thrown into a suicide bomber mass casualty scenario, taking 17 out of 23 Marines as casualties. They wasted no time setting up security, triaging the wounded and calling for reinforcements to minimize their losses.
With the help of their corpsmen and medical officers they were able to salvage the situation and save most of the casualties. The medical team also got valuable training from the situation, going from no patients to almost 20 instantly. They quickly prioritized the wounded and moved them inside, treating them to the best of their abilities, then sending them up to higher care if necessary.
Given the ups and downs that inevitably come with handling new situations, the leadership of engineer platoon was satisfied with their Marines performance.
“In the end I think they did great getting so much thrown at them,” explained Sweet. “It’s good to be able to operate out here with the mountainous terrain because it’s something that the Marines don’t get to train on often and I think it will pay dividends in the long run.”
Two days of rigorous patrolling and high stress simulations gave the Marines of engineer platoon a look at where they stand in readiness. While there can always be improvements, the overall product was nothing short of what you’d expect from Marines.