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Combat engineers train to provide mobility, freedom

US Marine Corps News

By Cpl. Walter D. Marino II, 2nd Marine Division

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- An Afghanistan deployment is on the horizon for 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, and the unit is making sure all its Marines are ready for the insurgents’ weapon of choice – the improvised explosive device.

Approximately 20 Mobility Assault Company, 2nd CEB, 2nd Marine Division, Marines patrolled through a simulated improvised explosive device-riddled road March 30 to cap off a three-day IED Awareness course, which began March 28, designed to prepare them for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

The first two days included classes on IEDs. But the Marines tested their knowledge the last day of the course in three scenarios: clearing a route, running through a casualty evacuation, and an IED attack followed by an ambush.

These Marines’ primary mission is to provide freedom of mobility to various units by ridding, in this case, Afghan roads of IEDs, explained 2nd Lt. Daniel J. Bramford, a platoon commander for Mobility Assault Company.

Most Marines attending the training are fairly new to the Corps and have never deployed. The Marines said they felt the training thoroughly helped prepare them for Afghanistan.

“Overall, I thought it was a great experience, especially for a new guy like me,” said Pfc. Kevin A. Michaels, a combat engineer with the battalion. “I just feel that every bit of training adds pieces to the puzzle so that when we do deploy, we’ll be ready.”

Michaels, a Naperville, Ill., native, patrolled the most forward section during the entire exercise.

“It was scary going out there, even in a demonstration, because you’re looking for everything. Just knowing everyone else is behind you and if you slip up their lives are on the line – and that’s who you have to look out for,” said Michaels.

Marines knew what they were going to be tested on, but the instructors left the location of the simulated IED explosion and ambush up to the Marines’ imaginations.

The first training scenario was picked off by engineers, like a lion attacking a gazelle, after they spotted an IED 100 yards away. Round two proved to be more challenging.

A loud boom and cloud of smoke erupted to the patrol’s left, which surprised many of the engineers.

“You’re down,” said a nearby instructor, designating the Marine a casualty.

“IEDs are the number-one weapon used against coalition forces,” said Gus W. Mingus, a counter-IED instructor and retired Marine infantry captain. “You can’t get enough IED training.”

Mingus, along with other counter-IED instructors, gave the engineers feedback after each trial.

“You’ve just encountered two IEDs in less than a click. Do everything you can in the rear, because you can make mistakes here – it’s training,” said Mingus, a Detroit native.

Engineers proceeded to their last location, a small town, with extreme caution, halting the patrol at any sign of danger. However, the Marines immediately went on the offensive when instructors told the Marines civilians were being shot at. Marines attacked the city, running with rifles in hand. They bounded toward the left side of the town in an attempt to flank the enemy. The Marines did not see the danger lurking around the edge of a house, unfortunately. An instructor told two Marines they were killed.

Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Phillips’ quick reaction caught the eye of leadership nearby. Phillips, a combat engineer with the company and a Washington Courthouse, Ohio, native, not only dragged his fellow Marines away from the battle site, but also coordinated other Marines into a defensive perimeter and called in the casualty report with a radio.

“It was stressful going through it, but I know it’s helping us become better Marines and preparing us for Afghanistan,” said Phillips.

The company’s leadership wanted to put stress on the Marines and evaluate their performance under fire. The command was thoroughly impressed.

“I was very impressed with how the junior Marines displayed a great combat mindset under fire,” said Bramford. “The last exercise was difficult and I was proud of how they conducted themselves.”

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