MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
For many people, riding in an amphibious assault vehicle, getting up close to controlled demolitions or even rappelling is something that they will never do.
However, Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps midshipmen from across the country going through the Career Orientation and Training for Midshipmen were given a chance to do all of this during their week-long trip to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
The day began with a visit to the Combat Engineer Instruction Company’s training grounds at Courthouse Bay where they were introduced to mine warfare, improvised explosive devices and the tools that Marines use to mitigate or remove damage.
The first lesson of the day was about IED detection capabilities that the Marine Corps utilizesoverseas. While the Corps has many conventional pieces of equipment, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Murabito, section head for explosive obstacles with CEIC, also talked about how Marines can adapt and overcome.
“Marines can use their eyes, ears and anything at their disposal,” said Murabito. “They can even use silly string when a door is cracked open to see if the string catches on anything like a wire hooked up to an explosive.”
The group of midshipmen were shown different mine detectors Marines in the field were using and their detection capabilities. Murabito also explained how enemy fighters are using fewer metals in their explosives to make the IEDs harder to detect.
Gunnery Sgt. Michael Baehr, section head of explosive hazards, then took to the stage to talk to the midshipmen about different types of explosives that were at one point fielded by several nations.
The midshipmen saw mines that could cause a catastrophic kill or mobility kill to tanks and military personnel. Some of the explosives, although smaller, could pack a bigger punch, like the mobility-kill mine which was bigger than a catastrophic-kill mine.
Baehr also showed the classroom how some mines could make themselves stand upright after being dropped from a moving aircraft or how some mines could bounce a few feet into the air until it was chest level, at which point the mine would detonate.
Not all mines were designed to kill, Baehr showed the group a mine smaller than an adult’s palm which was designed to severely injure a person, usually by blowing off a portion of their foot. This would not kill the person but would add pressure to the unit as they would have to cope with caring for a maimed service member while also completing their assigned mission.
Another piece of equipment the midshipmen encountered was the Packbot 510, used to investigate suspicious packages or areas, and its lighter companion the 310. Both are operated by video-game controllers, one uses an Xbox 360 controller and the other a PlayStation 3 controller.
After seeing what the Packbots were capable of, the midshipmen were introduced to Gunnery Sgt. Jose Arreola, an instructor with the demolitions section, CEIC. Arreola talked to them about shaped charges, the many uses of C4, dynamite and bangalores.
“With some of these, we can level buildings or use to make craters,” said Arreola. “We also have the capability to make bangalores or claymores out of C4.”
As their time with the engineer school personnel drew to an end, the midshipmen were shown the vehicles that engineers use to locate and inspect suspicious objects or locations.
One that most midshipmen easily pointed out was the Buffalo mine-protected vehicle, which was used in the film “Transformers.” They also got a firsthand look at the Husky, a vehicle which was fitted with mine detectors to search for underground IEDs.
As a farewell treat, the Marines of CEIC demonstrated the explosive power of C4 as they detonated them from a safe distance. For the first second of the explosion, the flash and smoke could be seen, then the shockwave came and the midshipmen could feel it in their chest as the explosion’s shockwave dissipated.
Following their visit to the Engineer School, the midshipmen were given the chance to ride in AAVs. They were then loaded up and taken to a rappel tower where, after being given a safety brief, they were harnessed and prepared for rappelling.
Shouts of encouragement were given by the safety supervisors and the midshipmen tried, to the best of their abilities, to descend. For those in the group who did not do so well their first time around or wanted to go again, they were given the chance to sharpen their rappelling skills. For some, two times around was not enough to satisfy their thirst for action and they kept on rappelling until the time came for them to load up and call it a day.
“This was all pretty good, I got a chance to see what the Marine Corps has to offer and also do things that a lot of Marines don’t get to do like ride an AAV or rappel,” said Rob O’Neill, a Marine Corps option midshipman. “I’m a bit more interested in the infantry side, but seeing what the engineers get to do was pretty cool.”
For many of the midshipmen, this may be the only chance they would get to do this sort of training.
“This whole week is to expose them to all that is the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Joleen Young, the operations officer for the group of midshipmen. “This may be their only experience with Marines and it gives them the opportunity to see the way we live, how we act, both professionally and off duty, and see what makes us Marines.”