FORT PICKETT, Va. --
Wherever the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit goes, whether training or supporting America's global interests, the Marines want to make their destination a better place. For example, in 2007 when the MEU went to Kenya, they built a school for one local community.
Now, during the MEU's first unit-wide training exercise since forming February 15, they've improved the community around Fort Pickett, Va. Marines from the MEU's logistics workhorse, Combat Logistics Battallion 26, volunteered to make enhancements to a pistol range used by local law enforcement. The project began March 31 and the Marines wrapped up their work today.
Blackstone police, local state police and other agencies all use the range to improve their marksmanship skills. The most significant improvement the Marine engineers made was the construction of a shelter and storage facility. Previously, whenever officers wanted to use the range they had to transport their own targets and equipment.
Sgt. Chris B. Mathias, supervising officer at the Blackstone Police Department, said this relatively simple task will benefit officers and the community in many ways.
“The range is also used by the state police, the sheriff’s department and Fort Pickett police,” Mathias said. “This building not only helps the department, it helps other departments in the area."
“This building is going to enhance our training program,” Mathias said, “which is going to be a benefit to the community, of course. We can offer a lot more training and actually be out here for longer periods of time, so we can actually use that building for breaks and things like that.” Mathias also said the storage space will keep officers from having to transport their heavy gear each time they want to use the range.
As for the Marines, they were eager to get to work.
“This is the kind of thing we like to do,” said Sgt. Matthew Dike, combat engineer section head. “We like to get hands-on with engineering and construction,” he said.
However, the project was more than something nice for the community, it was excellent training for the engineers. To support the swift, expeditionary nature of the MEU in its upcoming deployment this fall, these Marines will be called upon to construct operational and humanitarian assistance structures quickly and proficiently.
“It will help us learn our trade before we even get deployed,” said Dike.
“It’s a good chance to work together as a team before the deployment,” agreed Lance Cpl. Ethan Tobias, assistant tool room noncommissioned officer.
As the engineers put their finishing touches on the project and began to clean up, 26th MEU Commanding Officer Col. Gregg A. Sturdevant arrived to praise them.
"Congratulations, Marines," Sturdevant told the engineers. "You've done an excellent job here. And I know this experience will be good for you in the future. You've managed to help the community and improve your skills at the same time. Nice work."
The first day of the project saw the Marines working in the rain at temperatures reaching only the mid-40s. The rain continued intermittently all week. Undeterred, the engineers of CLB-26 leapt into their work with vigor. Corporal Larry Pearson, combat engineer, shrugged the harsh weather off with defiance.
“Mother Nature’s got to come up with something a little better than a couple rain drops to stop the combat engineers,” Pearson said.