MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st and 3rd Combat Engineer Battalions and 11th Marine Regiment participated in an excavator course to receive their licenses at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 23-26.
"The Marines are required to have hands-on training before they can receive their licenses," said Jeff D. Ellis, excavator trainer and developer with worldwide construction and forestry division, John Deere Training Center, Davenport, Iowa.
The $300,000 fully armored excavator is used in deployed environments to move large concrete barriers, building defensive positions, moving large amounts of earth and to demilitarize military structures. The Marine Corps has 10 of the John Deere excavators and of those, two belong to 1st MLG, one here on base and one in Afghanistan.
"The excavator is a highly versatile and mobile piece of equipment," said Lance Cpl. Travis M. Grande, 22, from San Jose, Calif., heavy equipment operator and licensing non-commissioned officer with 7th ESB, 1st MLG. "This machine plays a vital role in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Ellis, 40, from Rock Falls, Ill., shared his knowledge and experiences to the 10 Marines during the four day class. During the course, service members spent time in the classroom and at the 7th ESB Dig Pit where they conducted a variety of tests to become licensed. Marines learned how operate the excavator and how to properly maintain it. They learned the crucial everyday maintenance that includes inspecting the fluid levels, for leaks, filters quality, exposed wires and anything else that could hinder the equipment from properly performing.
"The more pieces of gear Marines are licensed on, the more mission capable we are," said 2nd Lt. Devin A. Delaney, officer-in-charge of Heavy Equipment Platoon, Support Company, 7th ESB, 1st Marine Logistics Group. "Marines are being trained on the same model of excavator that they'll be using in theater."
After the course is finished, the Marines who are authorized to license others will start training their fellow service members on how to operate the equipment for the upcoming deployment.
"We want the Marines to learn how to operate the gear here so they're proficient with it while they're deployed," said Delaney, 24, from Milwaukee, Wis. "It's better for Marines to make mistakes with the equipment in a safe environment where it won't waste time and cost lives."
Ellis will be returning twice in March to conduct more excavator classes to Marines at Camp Pendleton.