MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
“Zeus, this is Hercules.”
“Looks like we got another anti-tank mine, top is red, not as big as an American tank mine.”
This was the radio traffic that could be heard during a pre-deployment training block in which the Marines from Mobile Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, participated. They acted as seriously as they would if they had encountered the threat while deployed.
MAC is a combination of combat engineers and tankers whose sole mission, once they deploy, is to clear roads of any threats.
The route clearance course, which is part of engineers’ pre-deployment training block, teaches the Marines how to identify threats that deployed Marines are currently facing. They learned how to look for disturbed earth, aiming stakes, minute details and also became familiarized with the vehicles they will be using.
“We are always updating the curriculum with new stuff that’s going on in country and try to keep up with the most current threats,” said Nick Naquin an instructor in the Route Clearance Operations course. “They also learn how to properly use the Husky and the Buffalo (vehicles).”
The Husky is a mine-detection vehicle and the Buffalo is a mine-protected vehicle with a robotic arm that has a claw and spike attached, used to search for threats. Both vehicles allow service members to find and remove threats while staying at the safest distance possible.
The Marines started their route clearance with the Husky leading the way, along with a security mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle, the Buffalo and another MRAP.
In one instance during the course the Buffalo removed two pressure-activated anti-tank mines. As the Buffalo was removing the second IED too much pressure from the robotic claw detonated the mock IED. The platoon commander was then updated and told that he had two Marines with concussions in need of an evacuation.
Over the radio could be heard the platoon commander calling for a aerial casualty evacuation, shortly afterward an instructor playing the role of the helicopter pilot cleared the team and allowed them to continue their mission.
After the situation was taken care of, the Husky was still picking up a reading so a Marine with a mine detector escorted with his security exited the vehicle to pinpoint the location.
Although the IEDs were fake, the Marines treated it just like they would if they were deployed; communications were kept and after the IED was moved away from the convoy the platoon commander would call in for explosive ordnance disposal to destroy the IED.
“To look back at their first route clearance and this one, you can see a drastic improvement,” said Naquin. “Their communications have also greatly improved. It’s short and to the point and they are more sure of themselves.”
Naquin said as the Marines went further into the training the missions they got increasingly harder, as the instructors threw in secondary IEDs and daisy-chains (several IEDs linked together).
Throughout the day the instructors took note of details such as their dispersion, radio communications, reaction time, how the Husky was maneuvering and scanning for IEDs and how the unit set up security.
After the mission was completed Naquin went over things they needed to improve on, what they did great on and also took questions from the group.
“We started from scratch with half tankers and the others engineers; from the beginning until now there has been a vast improvement,” said Sgt. Mark Caulk, platoon sergeant for the unit. “The robotic arm operator in the Buffalo did a great job.”
For one Marine, who has been through the course prior to a previous deployment, it was a refresher course.
“This is my second time through, and it answered some parts I has questions about,” said Pfc. Justin Wooten, the Husky driver for MAC. “The unit has been doing great too. The tankers are catching on pretty quick.”
MAC, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division is scheduled to deploy next year.