FORT PICKETT, Va. --
One might not associate bulk fuel specialists with sweeping for mines or water purification specialists with operating heavy machinery. Nevertheless, the Marines of the engineer detachment of Combat Logistics Battalion 26, currently reinforcing the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are doing precisely that.
The engineer detachment has instituted a training plan involving cross-training all of the Marines within the section, regardless of individual military occupational specialty. Specialists in bulk fuel, water purification, combat engineering, electrical work, and heavy equipment operation, combined skills and held training sessions to bring the rudimentary knowledge of their jobs to the other Marines in the detachment.
“It makes us more well-rounded, especially when we go out on ship. If we do get called up for a sweeping mission, or something along those lines, whoever’s there will be able to handle it,” said Cpl. David Lamb, a combat engineer with CLB-26 from Cleveland, Ohio. “It makes our capabilities that much better.”
The cross-training allows the detachment to be vastly more effective than its numbers would suggest. The section is comprised of slightly more than 30 Marines, who will likely be spread out among ships or continents during the deployment. Teaching the Marines the basic skills necessary to do each other’s jobs allows the detachment to function and offer the ground-level functions of every specialty no matter which Marines are present on the scene.
“It enables us to accomplish all of our MOS-specific missions, even if those Marines are not present,” said Lance Cpl. Hunter Eden, a heavy equipment operator from Palm Bay, Fla. The cross-training allows the detachment to be a much larger asset in accomplishing the MEU’s mission. “We’ve got … resources to train each other, and we try to, so we’re proficient across the whole field,” said Eden.
Some of the skill sets the Marines have practiced so far include the basics of generator operation, fuel distribution, operating the tactical water purification system, and beginning their certification for operating some of the heavy machinery for setting up forward bases. Marines are also being taught the fundamentals of combat engineering, from safety procedures to assembling explosives, as well as their measurements and intended uses. “It’s interesting, being in our detachment, given what a wide variety of MOS’s there are there. I’m learning a lot about other people’s MOS’s that I never would have cared about before because I was focusing on one job. This is how unique a CLB on a MEU can be,” said Lamb.
The Marines of the engineering detachment have much yet to learn, but they’re already well on their way to becoming one of the most versatile elements of the already flexible logistics combat element. With training on subjects like basic demolitions and urban breaching still to come, their knowledge base is sure to expand, enabling the MEU to accomplish its worldwide mission more effectively. “It’s just giving people the confidence in it before they do it in a real situation,” said Lamb.