CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Marine combat engineers have a contradicting job description. On one side, they play a key role in the construction of forward operating bases and defensive positions. On the other, they are called in to use high-explosives to destroy anything that stands in their way.
During a routine U.S. training exercise, Marines assigned to Engineer Detachment, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, demonstrated their skills at making things go boom at a demolition range near Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Nov. 25.
With the use of shape and cratering charges and C-4, the combat engineers demonstrated practical applications of the explosives they use in combat environments.
“We use explosives for a number of purposes,” said Lance Cpl. Charles F. Irish, combat engineer, Engineer Detachment, CLB-15, 15th MEU.
“We can breech doors, clear paths of land mines or [improvised explosive devices], erect obstacles or create tank ditches with cratering charges.”
During one detonation, they fell four wooden poles to simulate blocking a road with trees to halt enemy movement. The team also used shape charges on top of vehicle armor to test the explosive’s armor-penetrating abilities.
Combat engineers rarely get the chance to use explosives in training, and sometimes are only able to visit a demolition range twice a year. Practical application is an important, yet inherently dangerous, part of their job they take very seriously.
“There’s a lot of safety precautions we take before going to the range,” added Irish, a 21-year-old native of Concord, Ohio. “We take the appropriate stand-off distances from the area of detonation, measure and double-check our detonation burn-times and make sure to keep our detonators separate from our explosives. It’s very important to do these things when dealing with explosives at demo ranges.”
Their job requires them to learn many skills and continually apply them on a day-to-day basis. This is just one of many talents engineers have in their hand.
“Combat engineers are a ‘jack-of-all-trades’. Demolition is just one aspect of the job,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Rapach, officer-in-charge, Engineer Detachment, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “We try to refresh their skills and training every four-to-five months by taking them out to a demo range. It’s a perishable skill that they need to continuously practice. We have to hit all aspects of their training,” added the Marion Center, Penn., native.
The 15th MEU is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.