USS KEARSARGE, At Sea --
Combat engineers assigned to Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, have been using their time aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), to better themselves and the combat engineer community as a whole by taking courses designed for higher ranking Marines during their 2013 deployment.
“The classes we have been doing have come from the Combat Engineer Platoon Sergeant Course as well as the Combat Engineer Officer Course,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Holland, a South Bend, Ind., native, and engineer platoon commander for BLT 3/2. “These classes are a little more advanced than what the Marines would see at the Basic Combat Engineer School and also the Noncommissioned Officer Course called the Journeyman’s Engineer Course.”
He said one of the training exercises they have learned to coordinate is a breaching scenario consisting of all the fundamentals of mechanized breaching including heavy equipment and tanks. Some of the other simulations they conducted were engineer estimations. They were assigned projects such as building certain sized structures and they conduct all the estimations for all the materials they would need to construct them. They also decide what materials would be required for the 26th MEU to stay static in that area including how much water would be needed for food preparation, sewage, showering and medical. After conducting all the calculations the Marines were required to give a confirmation brief to their platoon sergeant, platoon commander and the Headquarters and Service Company, company commander.
Foreseeing the limitations on training and space aboard ship, Holland knew he wanted a way to better his Marines during their time on ship.
“[We] were sitting around in our workspaces trying to determine what our long term training goals were going to be and the overall model of the instructions the Marines would receive while on ship,” said Holland. “We knew ahead of time it wasn’t going to be 24/7 operations and we needed to have a unified theme. One of the biggest problems when talking to past MEU platoons is you can only teach the same classes so many times: You have to expand the curriculum.”
Ship life can become tedious, making the days drag on for some of the Marines on ship. These periods of instruction have given the Marines something to focus on, helping to pass time and further their knowledge in their skillsets.
“I am grateful we have been given the opportunity to take these advanced courses,” said Cpl. Randy Kelley, combat engineer assigned to BLT 3/2 and Hammond, Ind., native. “These courses have given us productive work to focus on. Very few, if not all of us have never been given the opportunity to learn what happens on the SNCO or officer level while planning. Learning this will give us an edge in future operations so we can better help in the planning process if needed.”
Understanding planning involved in exercises or missions that are formulated from a higher echelon helps the junior ranking Marines understand what needs to be accomplished and gives them insight on how they can better execute the missions.
“As a result of the Marines going through this, especially the ones who plan on continuing their career in the Marine Corps, two benefits are going to happen: The first benefit is when they attend these courses, maybe 10 years down the road, they will have already attended these periods of instruction allowing them to understand the fundamentals. Secondly, when they go to their next unit they will be a force multiplier. They are going to be able to produce, in a lot of instances, the same products the lieutenants at Courthouse Bay [combat engineer school] are producing at this very moment.”
Based on the success and knowledge gained by his Marines, Holland recommends future MEU deployments consider the same approach in teaching.
“I think this is a great idea to follow,” said Holland. “Every leadership within a platoon has a different idea on what to do, but this just happened to be our over-arching theme, our structure we wanted and it worked very well for us. I think it would work well with other platoons provided their leadership is onboard and that’s what they wanted to do. You get a really good product with great end results. It is definitely worth it.”