Students learn skills of Combat Engineer

27 Nov 2000 | Sgt. Arthur Stone

No one knows the "ins and outs" of mine warfare training like the instructors of the Landmine Warfare section at the Basic Combat Engineer Course, Combat Engineer Instruction Company, Marine Corps Engineer School.

The instructors keep pretty busy with about 29 classes a year and an average class size of 25 - 30 students, according to Danville, Va., native, SSgt. David W. Dickens, an instructor at the course. 

Dickens discussed with his students the various types of mines and how they work and are deployed by various nations.  He then instructed the students on the use of the AN/PSS 12 mine detecting set, which can detect a mine up to 12 inches below the surface of the ground and up to one meter below the surface of water.
After the course of instruction, he gave the Marines time to get some "hands-on" time with the equipment.

"Each country and unit has a different standard operating procedure," said Dickens.  "They accomplish the same mission, even though they don't do it the same way.  Our hands-on time depends on the class.  These students get approximately 6 hours of practical application.  Here, we give them the basics so they know how to operate them when they get to the fleet where they'll get more experience."

Dickens admits that training the students isn't always easy.  "The most challenging thing about being an instructor is keeping up with change," he said.  "That's real tough to do.  You find out new stuff all along.  You don't want to pass on outdated information, and you have to keep the students updated about the new stuff out there."

The students listened attentively to Dickens during the class, learning the proper way to sweep for mines with their gear and then to mark them.  Afterward, Dickens took them to lanes they had set up to simulate the lanes they will sweep in actual minefields. There they were able to train with the gear.

"I was an electrician about five years before I came in the Marine Corps and wanted to go more in depth in the engineering field," said Macon, Ga., native, PFC Jayson M. Lee, one of Dickens' students.  "There was more of a variety of jobs in this field, which made it more interesting, but working with the explosives was my main interest.

"I've enjoyed the training a lot because the instructors here are outstanding," Lee added.  "When they teach a class they teach it so that everybody understands it.  They don't hesitate to answer any question we might have and I believe the instructors are very knowledgeable about the subjects they cover." 

Although the mine warfare portion of the students training is only a small part of what they will learn at the six-week school, it could be the most important critical when faced with the possibility of operating in a live minefield somewhere around the world on a future deployment in the fleet.

"We train them on the entire course of mine warfare, to include foreign mines, U.S. mines, mine detection and minefield breaching," said Dickens.  "The most enjoyable thing about being an instructor is seeing these kids graduate and knowing that we're putting a good product out into the fleet."

For more information about MCES and a list of courses offered at the school visit their website at