MIDDLE EAST -- Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Combat Engineer Platoon lit the fuse on three days of live-fire demolition training, here, May 23.
Working alongside a similar unit of engineers from a regional nation's military, the Marines sharpened their breaching and landmine clearing skills.
The demo training was also designed to give the 37-Marine platoon, part of the MEU's Battalion Landing Team 2/2, a break from their duties as attachments to the unit's infantry companies, enabling them to focus solely on engineer-specific skills, said 1st Lt. Perry B. Akin, the platoon's commander and a St. Louis native.
The day began with a series of breaching drills in which the Marines and regional troops worked in integrated teams to demolish roadblocks simulated by strands of concertina wire. During the drills the teams rolled up to the roadblocks in a humvee, established security and eliminated the obstacles using Bangalore charges.
Throughout the day the Marine engineers gave classes to their Middle Eastern counterparts on a number of breaching techniques, including roadblock, door and window obstacle removals.
Giving instruction to the regional engineers served to further enhance his own platoon's know-how, said Akin.
"It is always good to teach a group unfamiliar with your tactics," he explained. "It really forces you to know the material you are presenting inside and out."
The Marines were not the only ones to give advice during the bilateral evolution as the regional forces shared their expertise on clearing landmines, just one of the diverse battlefield missions combat engineers are ready to tackle.
"They bring a lot of expertise on landmine warfare to the table," observed Akin. "It is also brings exposure to a different culture and military, which is always a good thing."
After concluding the bilateral portion of the day's training, the Combat Engineer Plt. moved on to practice their employment of the M-18A1 Claymore anti-personnel mine.
The Claymore is commonly used by combat engineers to augment roadblocks they construct to impede enemy forces, making it an essential focus of the training, said Sgt. James N. Curry, a combat engineer squad leader with the platoon and a native of Petal, Miss.
Getting a chance to work as a consolidated unit for only the second time during the MEU's current deployment helped make the demolition training even more valuable to the platoon, who are tasked throughout BLT 2/2's infantry companies in squads of nine, said Akin.
"Getting away from the rest of the battalion and focusing just on engineer training has helped us better our skills on all levels," agreed Lance Cpl. Jon C. Balko, a combat engineer with the platoon and a native of Harrison, Mich.
The platoon also took advantage of the expansive desert range areas here to make the most of their explosive training.
"The training we can do here is twice what we can do back in the states because we are not in conflict with other units for ranges and we have a lot more room to employ explosives," said Akin.
When the smoke had cleared from the last demolition, the platoon had blasted through more than 250 pounds of explosives in one day of training.
The 26th MEU is currently in the fifth month of a routine, scheduled deployment that began Jan. 6 as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group.
In addition to BLT 2/2, the MEU is composed of its Command Element; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion-26.
For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.