CLB-26 heats up desert support

14 Apr 2007 | Cpl. Jeremy Ross

As the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit continues to operate here as part of a bilateral training exercise, Combat Logistics Battalion-26, the MEU's logistics combat element, is providing the unit with the means to accomplish missions on a day-to-day basis, in addition to improving its own personnel's skills.

As the logistics arm of the MEU, CLB-26 is responsible for supporting the unit with everything from electrical power to intermediate level equipment maintenance and vehicle recovery service.

The CLB-26 support here has run the gamut of its diverse capabilities since the MEU rolled ashore April 3, said Master Sgt. David S. Kinder, a Richmond, Ind., native, now the battalion's operations chief.

The start of the exercise hinged on getting forces to a designated shore-based operations area, and the Marines of CLB-26 were vital in making that happen. The battalion's Landing Support Detachment organized and conducted the successful movement of hundreds of Marines and their gear from the ships of the Bataan Strike Group to the beach.  Meanwhile, the CLB's Transportation Support Detachment filled the gap between the beach and the MEU's bivouac area inland with vehicle lift support. While surface movements of personnel and gear were underway, other CLB-26 Marines were rigging external loads of gear and supplies to be transported ashore by helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced), the MEU's aviation combat element.

The logistics battalion's Maintenance Detachment has been hard at work ensuring vehicles from each of the MEU's elements are ready to roll at a moment's notice. According to Kinder, their wrench-turning endeavors have encompassed complicated repairs, including replacing engines and swapping out transmissions for the humvees of Battalion Landing Team 2/2, the MEU's ground combat element.

The maintenance Marines' ability to make vital repairs on the BLT's vehicles has been sustained by efforts of the battalion's Supply Detachment. The supply Marines have utilized stores aboard ship and global vendors to rapidly source parts needed to keep maintenance on track. 

As the MEU's ground troops began exercise events, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines from CLB-26 carried-out several sweeps of the massive ranges here to ensure the safety of all parties.

Supplying the exercise forces with firepower on the ranges has been the responsibility of the CLB's ammunition section. The section Marines are responsible for managing the MEU's forward ammunition supply point (FASP).

While every type of support the logistics battalion has provided here is essential, nothing CLB-26 has offered to the MEU has been more valuable than the utilities supplied by the Engineer Detachment, said Kinder. The engineers have provided the generators that power the combined operations center, the nerve center for command and control of the MEU's forces ashore. Besides enabling the electricity for the numerous computers and other electronic gear needed for conducting operations, the detachment has supplied and maintained the air-conditioning units necessary for keeping the devices functional in temperatures that swell above ninety degrees Fahrenheit on a daily basis.

The engineers understand the importance of their enabling efforts, said Cpl. Robert F. Deitz, noncommissioned officer in charge of the detachment's electricians and generators section.

"Without us, there's no communications and no computers," explained the Sewell, N.J., native.  "None of that would be possible without us."

Another fruit of the engineers' labors, a field shower system, has been valued by all of the MEU's troops ashore and has served as a positive impact on the morale of the unit's personnel, said Kinder.

In addition to accomplishing their support missions, the Marines and Sailors of CLB-26 have also managed to get in some training of their own. Marines from the Transportation Support Detachment supervised and underwent Combat Vehicle Operator Training (CVOT) in the rocky landscapes near here, April 9 and 11. The training was adapted from a Marine Corps course for armored humvees by CLB-26's Cpl. Steven R. Moore.  It put troops from the Detachment behind the wheel of AMK-23 Armored Tactical Vehicle Series 7-ton trucks and required them to negotiate numerous natural obstacles as they adjusted to controlling the heavily armored vehicles.

Having the opportunity to experience the difficulties of operating the 32,000 pound trucks in off-road conditions was nothing short of outstanding in terms of training value, said Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Jeffords, CLB-26's Motor Transport chief.

"This is the best driver training these Marines will get in their careers (in the Marine Corps)," said the Albany, N.Y., native.

Moore, the Detachment's training noncommissioned officer, said he designed the course to accommodate the surplus of AMK-23's used by the logistics battalion and to give his Marines the necessary skills to effectively drive them in today's battlefields.

While CLB-26 has been tested by the extreme nature of the desert environment here, all of the unit's efforts will pay dividends in the future, said Moore, a native of Woodbridge, N.J.

"More than anything, (the exercise) has made us even more adaptable," he explained.  "We got another great chance to get used to operating in a field environment."

The 26th MEU is in the fourth month of a routine, scheduled deployment that began Jan. 6 and has included successful exercises in Djibouti and Kenya.

For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.